After a disappointing draw at home against Hull City, Everton take on the daunting task of redeeming themselves on the road against last year's league champion Manchester City. A few unwanted results have resulted in the pressure beginning to rise on Roberto Martinez and his team.
Roberto Martinez gave an injury update today in his press conference. The biggest news was that Antolin Alcaraz would most likely be available for Saturday. Here's what the boss said about Alcaraz:
"It is a real boost. Antolin should be available for selection on Saturday. He is available probably a week ahead of when we expected him to be back."
The manager also commented on the status of other injured players:
"We're still very similar to where we were on Wednesday. I doubt that Steven Naismith, James McCarthy and Darron Gibson will be fit for the weekend."
John Stones also remains sidelined, though Martinez said the young defender was recovering well and should return soon.
Manchester City are currently in the second spot on the Premier League table, six points behind Chelsea with 30. Chilean manager Manuel Pellegrini's side are on a terrific run, having won four of the last five fixtures(all competitions), including a Champions League matchup with Bayern Munich.
City boast league-leading goal scorer Sergio Aguero, who has notched 14 so far for 2014-15. Aguero has been the best player in the league this season, and has shown an ability to score goals in a number of different ways.
But it's not just Aguero that makes Manchester City so good, though he plays a big part. Edin Dzeko is another dangerous striker in the City arsenal, and he could make a return from injury against Everton. Stevan Jovetic is another player Pellegrini could choose to play up front.
Midfielders Samir Nasri and Yaya Toure may not strike as much fear into opponents' hearts as in years past, but when either is in form they are very dangerous. Fernandinho, James Milner, and NYCFC-loanee Frank Lampard could also see time in Saturday's match. David Silva remains out with an injury.
City, like Everton, are prone to mistakes and giving up goals defensively. Joe Hart can be good when he is playing confidently but Manchester City have kept a clean sheet only twice in the past ten fixtures.
What to Watch For
Manchester City, like all other teams, watched while Chelsea pulled away in the early race for the title. Eager to defend their title, and after making up two points on Chelsea midweek, the Citizens will want three points against Everton. Roberto Martinez should start the strongest side possible, with only a meaningless Europa League match next Thursday and the next league fixture on the 15th of December.
Here are three keys to the game for the Blues:
- First, the obvious one. Contain Sergio Aguero. If Everton want any chance at a result they will have to figure something out defensively to stop the striker. Aguero netted two goals in his last league game and less than two weeks ago hung a hat trick on Bayern Munich.
- The second key to the game is defensive midfield. Gareth Barry and Muhamed Besic started the last two matches. In the first, at Tottenham, the two looked out of sync and Barry was robbed of the ball for the winner. Besic played better against Hull, and if he gets the start he will have to control the ball in front of the back four for the Blues to have a chance. Barry is familiar with the Etihad as an ex-Manchester City player, and hopefully that will give him some advantage on Saturday.
- Finally, the offense needs to play together better. Romelu Lukaku scored against Hull, which was a good sign, but he will need help from Ross Barkley and Kevin Mirallas. Everton will have to put in a complete performance (not just the first half) to topple Manchester City.
The Final Word
Everton are going to have to quickly put the disappointment of the last two league matches behind them before taking on Manchester City. This will be a great test to see how the Toffees size up against the top teams, but ultimately, Manchester City should win this game.
Match Date/Time: Saturday, December 6th. Etihad Stadium. 17:30 GMT, 12:30PM EST.
TV Info (Via Live Soccer TV)