Thursday, 8 January 2015

January ‘tester’ continues with tricky, sticky Toffees

January always looked like a toughie when the fixtures came out in the summer – however, I didn’t exactly include a home game against Sunderland on the 1st of the month as part of those but “tough” we did indeed make it for ourselves.

Goodison Park has rarely been a good hunting ground for us down the years; even last season’s slightly under-strength Everton side ran us close as we came out of that game with a good performance ourselves and, most importantly, a much needed 3-2 win.

And with a home game against Arsenal and an away trip to title rivals Chelsea either side of an F.A Cup match against Middlesbrough; the same outcome as last season is very much required on Saturday.

One out…but the cavalry has arrived!

It seems strange for me to even SUGGEST that we need reinforcements being, as we are, the top-form-team in the Premier League; 5 places ahead of Jose’s men. And despite being bereft of strikers for so many weeks & fixtures, we’ve gone about our goal-scoring way in very fine fashion indeed.

However, there’s been a very small alarm bell ringing in the back of my Manchester City head of late and it started with our energy-sapped, 2nd half display against Burnley. We all know how that went; I don’t need to harp on about it. But 2 goals up at home against a, yeah…fair enough, battling Lancashire outfit (one who still sits in the relegation zone) is just not Champions material - although that’s why we all apparently love the Premier League…

Then followed ‘very similar’ at home to Sunderland just 4 days later. Thankfully on that occasion Super Frank was able to save us with a fine header with just 17 minute left of the 90 in a nervy 3-2 win. Phew…

Not late or scary enough for you? Then try a James Milner double; one of them on 91 minute to save red faces at home to Championship side Sheffield Wednesday in the 3rd round of the F.A. Cup.

NOW tell me that my little alarm bell is unwarranted. We’re flagging a little…

And although, at times, it seems to have taken forever for Yaya to wind himself up this season; wound up – in a good way this time – he’s got himself. We have very good midfielders who are NOT joining the African Cup of Nations of course but we’ll miss the big’un that’s for sure. Sorry Ivory Coast but…come back soon fella.

So what superb timing it is, we are told, that we’re getting our Captain Vinny back for this difficult trip to Merseyside? And not just back in the squad either but, speculation has it, in the starting line-up. If true…that’s worth 2 men!

Not enough of an “hurray!” for you? Then, rumours suggest, we might also have Edin AND Sergio available on the bench (at least) for our trip up the M62! Wow!

v Everton

Although the Christmas & New Year celebrations are calming down and becoming a distant memory - despite the constant reminder of a slightly fuller figure and a still-sluggish feeling – I am back at work now and my wife & I have also just been invited to spend the evening with some friends that we’ve not seen for 18 months or so after work tomorrow evening.

And, SO, I’m going to have to post a pre-Everton Blog a little earlier than I would have liked; leaving myself open to a sizable error in judgement [before any press conference] of what the starting 11 & subs might be to face Roberto Martinez’s men.









Subs: Caballero, Sagna, Mangala, Milner, Lampard, Dzeko, Aguero

Hart to return after stepping aside for a couple of games to allow Willy some ‘between the sticks’ time. Can’t fault Willy really during his 180+ minutes; he only let as many in as Hart did in the previous 180 or so minutes.

We’re away from home and so, according to Manuel Pellegrini, the more-defensive Gael Clichy to start. For me? Gael is simply miles better than Aleks no matter if we’re at home or 'a million miles away' and so should start.

Now this doesn’t sound too good considering we spent £32M+ for a certain French central defender but, in my opinion, Martin, Vincent and Pablo make up the rest of the best defence we can put out this season so far. Whether that’s harsh on Mangala or high praise for Demichelis & Kompany I’ll leave that for you to decide.

I’m predicting that it’s the ‘Ferns’ in the middle at Goodison – I think our manager will want to sit both in there with some licence for Fernandinho to support the attacking play when possible. We need to be aware of a packed, combative Everton midfield with the added danger of a certain energetic Mr Barkley.

The creative trio of Samir, David and Jesus to support a lone forward in Stevan. That’s a very dangerous quartet ‘on it’s day’.

If I’m right…what a bench!

Willy as goalkeeping cover of course; Bacary & Eliaquim right and sort of left-sided defenders in case needed. James & Frank as EXCELLENT weapons to bring on any stage of the game and although I can’t get TOO excited about Edin’s return; I certainly won’t be unkind and will, instead, say that I hope he finds form soon upon his return.

As for Sergio, wellWELCOME BACK MATE!

Result? With the likes of Sylvain Distin, Steven Pienaar, James McCarthy and Tim Howard all out and with Leighton Baines a doubt; with 4-straight, back-to-back Premier League defeats and lying just 4 points above the relegation zone – and with our returning stars hopefully all raring to go - I SHOULD be saying, “No probs; it’s a City win”.

And so I will…“It’s City win”.

But this one certainly comes with a note of caution. Roberto Martinez is a canny manager and I’ve seen him being interviewed after their last few defeats – he looks a very hurt man indeed. You know what they say about wounded animals...

Be wary City; fight for everything, show your class and we CAN come away with all 3, very valuable points on Saturday.

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