Everton enters their next league match on a roll, winning three straight league matches, and suddenly finding an offensive touch. The Toffees have managed 7 goals in their last 3 league matches, and will be looking to continue their good form against Manchester City. Everton will need Romelu Lukaku, the catalyst to Everton's recent run, to continue to give opposing defenders nightmares at City, who are certainly a step above from the team's recent opponents.
However, the Citizens have had their fair share of problems so far this campaign. Manchester City is coming off a 3-1 thrashing at the hands of the defending Champions League winners Bayern Munich on Wednesday, which saw the English side field a top squad. Combine that with a 3-2 loss at Aston Villa, a 3-2 loss at Cardiff City, and a 0-0 draw at Stoke City, and we see a side that has not, as yet, lived up to expectations. The sixth place Citizens have had issues with poor goalkeeping from Joe Hart, and have been saved largely by 4 league goals from Yaya Toure, who is a fantastic player, but whose top goal output in a Premier League season is 7, and cannot be relied on to continue to contribute in such a way.
Gareth Barry will be ineligible, as he is not allowed to play against his parent club. Steven Pienaar and Antolin Alcaraz remain out with hamstring injuries. Kevin Mirallas and Darron Gibson are both doubts, with ankle and knee injuries respectively.
Keys to the Game
The biggest key for Everton will be the health of Kevin Mirallas and Darron Gibson. Mirallas had arguably his best match of the season against Newcastle, and will be keen to keep up the momentum. With the absence of Barry, Gibson's ability to control the match from the center of the pitch will be crucial. If Gibson and Mirallas cannot play, Leon Osman will certainly be forced to play alongside James McCarthy at the center of midfield, leaving only Steven Naismith and Gerard Deulofeu available to play the wings. Health aside, Everton will need a strong showing from the back, as Manchester City leads the Premier League in goals scored. If they can hold firm at the back, Lukaku will be able to generate chances against a Manchester City defensive corps that has been leaky against teams with some attacking prowess.
For Manchester City, the key will be to capitalize on opportunities. Everton will likely come out looking to just absorb the pressure and wait for City to make a mistake. Joe Hart remembering how to play in goal effectively again would also help the Citizens. He has been especially shaky in dealing with crosses so Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman could have key roles to play too. The Toffees will have especially bitter memories of Manuel Pellegrini - he was Villareal's manager for the twin 2-1 losses for Everton in their Champions League qualification attempt in 2005.
- Everton have won 9 of their last 12 matches against Manchester City.
- Romelu Lukaku is averaging a goal every 37 minutes over his last 5 Premier League appearances. (Opta)
- Manchester City have lost a league-high six points from winning positions in the Premier League this season. They lost only seven points from winning positions in the whole of 2012-13. (Opta)
- Manchester City has only lost 2 of their last 38 home matches in the Premier League (whoscored.com)
- City are also yet to concede a goal in the first half of a game this season.
- The last time Everton started with 3 wins and 3 draws, they won the League (1986-87). Just saying.