Following the FA cup fixtures just past Goodison Park will treat us to a visit from the Champions. You would be hard pressed to find two teams of more polarizing form facing each other. While Manchester City haven’t been beaten since October, winning 5 of their last 6 fixtures allowing them to equal Chelsea’s points tally the home sides fortunes have been quite different. The blue half of Merseyside have struggled to recapture their startling form of last season that saw them challenge for a top 4 spot. Instead, as we start 2015 the Toffee’s lie 4 points off the drop zone having lost 4 games in a row over the Christmas period and only winning 1 in their last 6 overall. Needless to say it is not the run of results you want heading into a visit from the reigning Champions. However, if there was ever a result that could kick start a poor season it would be a victory against the champions and tied league leaders.
The African Cup of Nations claims a player from each squad with Everton set to be without Ghanaian Christian Atsu and Manchester City without the Ivorian powerhouse Yaya Toure. Arguably Toure is a bigger loss to City than Atsu is to Everton, but when the champions are visiting you want all hands available on deck.
The good news for Evertonians is that Leighton Baines is set to return to the squad for the City match. Not having Baines available for such a clash would’ve been a major loss to the Toffee’s. However, their injury list is still a worry. The home side are facing the possibility of a visit from the joint league leaders without; first choice stopper Tim Howard, midfield enforcer James McCarthy, regular centre back Sylvain Distin, Leon Osman, Steven Pienaar, Darron Gibson and Tony Hibbert. With a side already struggling for confidence depth would’ve been a handy tool for this tie. There will be many fans sweating to see the team sheet before the game on Saturday with several of these players marked as doubts rather than definitely ruled out.
Manchester City’s injury list isn’t as extensive but still have a lot of talent placed on it. With Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero still set to miss out through injury as they have for the past few weeks. However, a major boost for City is that it looks like captain Vincent Kompany is set to return for the Citizens. The |Belgian stopper is a welcome addition back to the side especially when his club are set to face his international team mate Romelu Lukaku.
Roberto Martinez has faced Man City 11 times in the Premier League but has never beaten them drawing 1 and losing on 11 occasions
Martinez was however in charge of the Wigan Athletic side that beat Man City in the FA Cup final in 2013
In the corresponding fixture last May Man City ran out 3-2 winners at Goodison courtesy of a brace from Edin Dzeko and an early effort from Sergio Aguero
Tim Cahill is top goalscorer in the Premier League fixture scoring 5 goals against the citizens for Everton
The last time Everton beat Man City was in March 2013 at Goodison Park. They won the game 2-0
Everton: Gareth Barry
With Everton again missing James McCarthy this puts a lot of emphasis on gareth Barry’s performance in the middle of the park. Against a team as fluid and creative as Man City Everton will need a player capable of stifling their flow. Barry is a form City player and will be familiar with many of the players like Nasri and David Silva. His job will be to anger, annoy and generally put these players off their usual level of performance. The absence of McCarthy is huge because at his age now Barry is helped massively by the presence of a young player capable of putting in a harder shift than him, this way he is capable of picking and choosing his battles. Unfortunately for Barry this weekend he will not have that security and his side will need a massive performance for him reminiscent of his days with Villa that first grabbed the attention of teams like Man City.
Manchester City: David Silva
Aguero still injured, Yaya Toure away for AFCON but don’t worry David Silva is still here. The diminutive Spaniard has been on great form since returning from injury against Leicester on December 13th. He has since went on to score 4 of his 6 goals this season between then and now. With the loss Aguero the Spanish number 10’s decision to pick up some goals has been more than welcome. Now with Yaya gone for a little bit as well City fans would love for the eye for goal to continue. The Spaniards assist tally for the season only sits at 2 which is startling since how many chances he creates for his side. Silva has created 33 chances for the citizens but only 2 have turned into goals, this is a statistic City will like to remedy because given the form they are on already without converting the mass opportunities that Silva creates if they actually started converting them we could be looking at the Champions in waiting. Expect Silva to take the added emphasis on his performance with Yaya’s absence and turn it into a game winning show from himself.
In previous years, no matter who was visiting Goodison Park you could always believe there is a chance the home side would pick up points. Nobody liked an away day in the blue side of Merseyside. However, now that doesn’t feel like the case. The 1-0 loss to Stoke on Boxing Day confirmed this for me. With the Champions visiting with the real possibility of retaking top spot in the league it’s hard to see them being halted by a beleaguered Everton side that is bereft of confidence. Unless this is the game that is the catalyst for a big surge up the table from Everton in the second half of the season, in other words a complete anomaly, it’s hard to see past an away win. City are without key players like Yaya Toure due to the AFCON and Aguero due to injury but quality is still there. More importantly Everton will likely be without their main man in midfield James McCarthy a loss that is more detrimental to their squad than City’s losses are to them due to their depth of quality.