Published on October 3rd, 2013 | by Adrian Houghton0
Game of the Week – Manchester City vs Everton
Chief editor Adrian Houghton previews a potential danger game for the pre-season title favourites Manchester City when they host Everton on Saturday afternoon.
Manchester City vs Everton
We may be just six games into the season but not many would have predicted Everton to be two points ahead of Manchester City.
On Saturday a buoyant Roberto Martinez side will make the small journey to the Etihad Stadium for the early lunchtime kickoff.
Manuel Pellegrini’s charges dismantled their fierce neighbours Manchester United 4-1 just under two weeks ago, only to be undone in a shock loss away to Aston Villa. They failed to get the response they craved against an imperious Bayern Munich outfit.
Pep Guardiola’s men produced a football masterclass to convincingly sweep aside the Sky Blues 3-1 and put a further dent in the City resolve. That scoreline flattered the home team, who were second best for the entire match and struggled to make a real impression on the ball. Question marks over goalkeeper Joe Hart’s form will no doubt be raised again once more after failing to parry away two efforts that resulted in goals.
10 points from a possible 18 represents a shaky start from one of the league’s genuine title contenders, and they will be desperate to reignite their campaign.
Things look a lot brighter for Everton, the only undefeated team in the division and after three consecutive, they have won three on the bounce and approach the meeting with City in fine form.
Deadline day signings Gareth Barry, James McCarthy and the season-long loan deal of Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku have adapted to life on Merseyside quickly. The young starlet Lukaku in particular was at his menacing best on Monday night against Newcastle United, bagging two goals and providing a crisp pass that promising winger Ross Barkley finished off with aplomb.
Everton have the best possession record in the league, just shy of the 60% mark and after a tame start under the new regime, Martinez’s ‘tiki-taka’ football is now starting to pay big dividends.
Vincent Kompany vs Romelu Lukaku
Two Belgian giants will compete head-to-head in a duel that will have telling ramifications on the afternoon.
After recovering from injury to play in the Manchester Derby, the City captain is yet to strike a cohesive partnership with starlet centre-back Matija Nastasic. He will face a stern test marking in-form countryman Lukaku.
The 20-year-old is in scintillating touch with 14 goals in 21 appearances, and many Chelsea fans will be still scratching their heads that he isn’t leading their frontline. Nonetheless, he’s an Everton player for the time being and with his raw pace, strength and aerial threat he will undoubtedly be a key figure to his side’s hopes of victory.
Sergio Aguero returned from injury and started in midweek against Bayern Munich and was withdrawn after 70 minutes for David Silva who was also a doubt with a knock. Both key members of the City side should be fit and available for the selection at the weekend, barring no ill side effects from their Champions League involvement.
Jack Rodwell’s fitness still remains a mystery, whilst summer signing Martin Demichelis remains a long-term absentee and is expected to make a return in late October.
Kevin Mirallas received a knock in the second-half against Newcastle on Monday night and will face a late fitness test to determine his availability.
The match comes too soon for midfielder Steven Pienaar who is still recovering from a training ground injury.
Everton have a terrific record against their counterparts having won seven of the past 10 encounters against City, losing just twice since December 2008. The home side have scored just once in their past three matches against the Toffees.
Everton 2 Manchester City 0 (16th March, 2013)
A sublime Leon Osman strike just after the half-hour mark sent the home side on their way to a famous victory. Not even the dismissal of Steven Pienaar could halt the Toffees’ momentum and in the dying moments of the game a brilliant counter-attacking move was rounded off with a curling effort from Nikica Jelavic that all but end City’s slim title hopes.
This a fixture that Everton have fared well in historically and they will fancy their chances against a more highly-fancied opponent.
City’s involvement in the Champions League on Wednesday night against Bayern Munich could hurt the hosts both mentally and physically. They were taught a football lesson by the reigning European Cup champions and will need to regroup quickly against a tenacious outfit.
Controlling the midfield will be crucial to the outcome of this game, and Barry will be desperate to prove a point to his former employers when he faces off against the imposing Ivorian Yaya Toure.
The visitors will be refreshed and in a confident mood and Martinez will endear his players to push forward and try to make the most of their opportunities. Expect a strong City response, but a resolute and disciplined Everton will have more than enough ability to grind out a valuable result.
Manchester City 2 Everton 2