In the less anticipated Merseyside vs Manchester match of the weekend, Manchester City travel to Goodison Park to face Everton. It is an important match for the visitors as they will have an opportunity to benefit from one or both of Liverpool and Manchester United dropping points. Pep Guardiola’s side have been disappointing in recent weeks, but a convincing performance against West Ham showed the damage that they can do when they are on form.
The home side have had a good week in terms of transfers as they brought Morgan Schneiderlin to the club. He is an upgrade on their current midfield options and could form an excellent partnership with Idrissa Gueye. It was a huge disappointment that they were knocked out of the FA Cup in the third round, because the best league finish they can realistically hope for is 7th and they already occupy it. They should have been targeting success in the FA Cup and it is important that they bounce back with a strong performance on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Manchester City are in fourth position and now only seven points off of top spot. It may be too soon for them this season, but they showed how devastating they can be against West Ham in the FA Cup. Guardiola will be hoping that that performance can provide the squad with momentum to take into 2017 and push on over the coming months. This was always going to be the most difficult job of the Spaniard’s career. His start has been okay, but more will be expected from him over the next 12 months.
Everton have been better in the league since their victory over Arsenal, taking ten points from a possible 15. That will be pleasing for Ronald Koeman as it included victories over the Gunners, Leicester City and Southampton, three of the better sides in the league. There is something for them to build on over the second half of the season and they will be hoping to finish in the top seven with some comfort.
Manchester City have won four of the last five Premier League matches since their embarrassing defeat against Leicester City. The one defeat since then came against Liverpool in a tight match. It will be disappointing to Guardiola that he has lost to both Chelsea and Liverpool this season, but it is a transition year. City are still well placed in the table and a victory this weekend could lift them as high as second.
I would expect three changes from the side that beat Southampton. Firstly, Morgan Schneiderlin could come straight into the side for his debut to partner Tom Davies as Idrissa Gueye is at the African Cup of Nations. Enner Valencia and Kevin Mirallas could both be set for starts on the flanks.
Manchester City were excellent against West Ham in the FA Cup and I would expect to see a similar side put out to start against Everton. That will mean a return to Goodison Park for John Stones, who is coming into this game after scoring his first goal for the Toffees. The only change we may see is Aleksandar Kolarov for Gael Clichy.
Everton Manchester City
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Maarten Stekelenburg is a doubt with a leg injury, while James McCarthy and Aaron Lennon also face battles to be fit. Muhamed Besic, Yannick Bolasie and Dominic Calvert-Lewin are all set to miss the match.
Vincent Kompany and Leroy Sane are both back in training and may be considered for the trip to Goodison Park. Fernandinho is serving the second of his four match ban, while Ilkay Gundogan remains on the injury list.
Everton have been much better in recent weeks and they will pose a difficult test at home. However, I think that Manchester City could be set to erupt under Pep Guardiola and launch a serious title challenge. There are areas of their squad that need to be worked on, but that is true of all of the top six. The Citizens showed their quality against West Ham and that performance should provide them with the confidence to go to Goodison Park and win.