LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 27: Marouane Fellaini of Everton celebrates scoring his team's second goal with team mate Denis Stracqualursi (L) during the FA Cup Fourth Round match between Everton and Fulham at Goodison Park on January 27, 2012 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
On Tuesday Everton plays host to Manchester City, and we hear at Royal Blue Mersey got a chance to speak with Bitter and Blue, the SB Nation site that covers all things City. Danny took some time out of his day to answer a few questions ahead of the match. Read his answers below, and make sure to check out Bitter and Blue for all things Manchester City. Enjoy the ans
RBM: City has seemed to have hit a bit of a rough patch relative to their early season success. Is there any huge cause for concern by supporters or is this more of a temporary setback.
B&B: It is relative only because of how good their form was over the first fifteen or so games. Even with the recent cooling off, City are on course for a finish that would see them in excess of a ninety point finish. Whilst the goals have dried up a little (again, all being relative) the defence has stepped up and conceded just three goals in the past seven games (including five clean sheets). The Cup exits are a worry, but the hope would be that they are used as a galvanising effect on the side.
RBM:Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany have both missed matches recently, just how badly does their absence affect this City team?
B&B: Both have been huge losses and their absence has served to highlight that both are part of the four 'untouchables' along with Joe Hart and David Silva in the side: the spine that Roberto Mancini will rely on time and again. Whilst we have exited both the Carling Cup and FA Cup during their absence (although the latter with Kompany playing ten minutes or so) they have won both Premier League games and I guess this is the key. Kompany is back now of course but Ivory Coast have progressed to the knock-out stages of the African Cup of Nations so he will absent for the next couple of games at the very least and it his drive and thrust from midfield that City really miss. The skill of Silva, balance of Barry and determination of Milner are there but none can contribute the qualities that Yaya Toure brings.
RBM: The big story from last week was Ballotelli's incident with Scott Parker. What were your thoughts on everything that happened, and how does his suspension affect city over the next few weeks?
B&B: Whilst there is an element of doubt involved I do think he was guilty. There are questions to be asked of the FA's disciplinary process but in this instance the right outcome at least was arrived at. I don't think it will have a huge effect (certainly not to the degree that the losses of Kompany or Yaya Toure have had) as despite a good goal return he is not an integral part of the side, but it does mean there is a lack of cover up front and Roberto Mancini will be over reliant on Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko for this period.
RBM: Up until this fall, Everton had proved to be a thorn in Manchester City's side. What was the difference between last season and this fall's victory against Everton?
B&B: A couple of reasons: City now have a number of players who can be difference makers and create something out of nothing. If Silva is thwarted, there is Sergio Aguero or Samir Nasri that can conjour something up, and secondly, there is a real collective unity about the squad at the moment - something perhaps lacking in games previously.
RBM: What worries you most about this Everton squad?
B&B: In games against Everton they have almost seemed to play as more than the sum of their parts. That is not to denigrate them or suggest a lack of quality (which of course they do posses) but that David Moyes implements systems that really do get the best out of his players.
RBM: What is Everton going to have to do if they want any chance at stopping City's attack?
B&B: Where teams have succeeded is in pressing City high up the field, to try and restrict their ability to create in dangerous areas. Too often teams have tried to play deep, almost inviting City on and try to pack the defence and midfield and crowd them out. This, as we know, rarely works and Everton will be as well to try and seize the initiative and put City on the back foot.
RBM: What are the keys for Manchester City going to be if they want to grab all 3 points?
B&B: Stay patient. City have scored the majority of goals in the second half of games and at times have taken time to settle before finding their feet and taking control of the game. They often dominate possession and need to turn this into creating opportunities as they lead the Premier League in terms of converting chances.
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