Saturday, 6 December 2014

Unpredictable toffees – and ANOTHER injury - makes for another interesting encounter.

High-flying, Southampton was quite-rightly pitched as a real test...and likewise the ‘bogey ground’ of Sunderland. Both were overcome in style.

Now with Everton showing the kind of form a ‘City of old’ would have been “proud” of - and with traction-building Jovetic taking a knock – it blows this clash wide open in terms of predictability.

It sure makes it an enthralling one

The ‘oppo’

They’ve surprised me a little have the blue team from Merseyside. With the addition of Gareth Barry to solidify their midfield and the purchases of a dangerous and very experienced Romelu Lukaku and Samuel Eto’o (plus a sprinkling of players I’ve not got much idea about); I expected them to set off quickly and then maintain a decent position in the league.

They had a side full of decent players to begin with – in addition to the much coveted (but heavily contracted) Ross Barkley both Leighton Baines & Seamus Coleman were, quite rightly, drawing praise from all quarters last season. And on their day, Kevin Mirallas and Steven Naismith (although the Scotsman is injured at the moment) can hurt you too. Chuck in a very accomplished and respected manager in Roberto Martinez and Everton are a decent outfit that should be respected.

But when the season kicked off  they hit the floor, not running, they just…hit the floor. A tricky, admittedly, opener at newly-promoted Leicester City ending in, what might have be seen as, a creditable 2-2 draw. The same scoreline at home to Arsenal also may be seen as an ‘okay’ result too. And then followed the visit of still-unbeaten Chelsea to Goodison Park…and a 3-6 hammering that set the tone for the Londoners at least.

After a decent 2-0 away win at WBA and, it has to be said, good results in the Europa League; Everton’s league form has been erratic and patchy to say the least. Following the win against the Baggies their league form looks like a Manchester City 70s, 80s, 90s and early-to-mid 00s team: L D L W W D D W L D.

I said before our game against Sunderland that Everton appeared to be ominously building up gradual stability and form – before the 1-2 defeat ‘blip’ at similarly-indifferent Spurs, Roberto’s men had gone on a table-boosting 5 games unbeaten run that included 3 wins.

But following their narrow loss at White Heart Lane they had me scratching my head once again as they came unstuck once more; managing just a point at home to lowly Hull City. As I say, very old-City like…

Points to prove and old habits

Mr Dependable
As much as we’ve MASSIVELY improved over the last couple of weeks / few games I’m a little wary of these popping one of our tyres this evening. They’ve got players with something to prove in their engine room in the form of ‘you let me go’ Gareth Barry and ‘come and get me if you want me’ Ross Barkley. Chuck in the afore mentioned dangers sprinkled throughout their side and this one will be both a feisty and close affair I’m sure.

A summer change of blue?
And WITH us appearing to gain our 'swagger' back – particularly at Sunderland on Wednesday night – I just hope that our lads are also up for a real 'fight' today…because that’s what I think lies ahead.

I have to remind myself also that despite us completing the league double over them last season, not only did they run us pretty close both times but, before last season, they too – like the red & white striped teams - were very much entrenched in the 'City hoodoo' camp for the most part (admittedly mostly on their own patch).

Chuck in the fact that there’s (still) no Kompany, Silva and now no Jovetic and we’ll NEED the rest of 'em to continue their improving form this evening…

v Everton (5:30pm KO GMT)

Predicted line-up, subs and outcome…

4-2-3-1 / 4-5-1










Subs: Caballero, Kolarov, Zabaleta, Fernando, Lampard, Pozo, Dzeko

Hart to start again.

Clichy again at left-back and with his 1-match suspension now complete, City ‘novice’ Mangala to, hopefully, continue his slow improvement; this time alongside ‘the master’ Demichelis. I’m going for our manager to rest Zabaleta for this one and give Sagna a run-out. I think the Frenchman needs ‘full 90’ and, I’m sure with Roma coming up on Wednesday, it’ll make doubly-so sense to swap ‘em over for this one.

Fernandinho - Much improved form
‘The Fernando plan’ from the start of the season just hasn’t got going as yet (and we’re in December now!) and that’s partly due to a resurgent Fernandinho; who's just happened to find form like a many of his colleagues. Like Zaba, I’m quite sure, I can see Fernando being given an important defensive role in Italy in mid-week and, so, Fernandinho to continue in the Premier League today I think. Yaya, despite a scratchy throat and slight illness in the last couple of days, to partner the Brazilian in the middle.

Simply on FIRE!

Ahead of those two I think will be a trio of Milner, Nasri (in the Jovetic / Silva role) and Navas. Super-Aguero ‘up top’.

In addition to keeper cover on the bench I think we’ll see the return of Kolarov; Zaba in there resting but ready if needed and Fernando get another view from the side. Super-sub Frank I’m sure will get another 20 to 30 minute run-out, Pozo available but less likely to come on for this one and just like Aleks, Dzeko should make a bench return also today.

Result? I said Sunderland would be a narrow away victory and it ended 1-4…with a lot of people saying it could have been much more. I’m going for the same prediction today but firmly believe that this one WILL be a lot closer.

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