I don’t think I’m being too hyperbolic when I see that we could be on the brink of a defining week in Everton’s recent history.
Sunday’s shambles against Swansea appeared to be the tipping point for frustrated and disillusioned supporters, tired at seeing the team make the same basic mistakes week after week.
It has left a sizeable chasm between the fans and manager Roberto Martinez, and even a trip to Wembley may not win back the trust of some supporters who feel the Spaniard’s stubborn refusal to alter his style of play will always hold the side back.
A win on Wednesday though would at least breathe some new life back into a flagging campaign. The top four has gone and the top six looks unlikely, so the cups now represent their only chance of salvaging something memorable. Don’t forget that Carlisle in the FA Cup lurks just four days later.
I’m not sure whether having a game so soon after Sunday’s defeat is a good thing or not. I’m sure the players will talk about being able to bounce back quickly and not dwell on the result. But for the fans, football has probably been the last thing they’ve wanted to focus on over the past few days. The Swansea result and performance was so dispiriting it erased much of the enthusiasm and excitement I had for the semi-final.
I only hope that the players have still retained some of their confidence and put in a performance more befitting of their true talents. Because if they do, then they certainly have a chance.
Manchester City showed their best and worst side against West Ham on Saturday. Going forward they look irresistible at times, with Sergio Aguero looking razor sharp up front and David Silva pulling the strings from midfield. At the back though they always look vulnerable when Vincent Kompany isn’t on the field. At team with City’s budget should not be starting with Martin Demichelis while Nicolas Otamendi has also failed to impress since his move from Valencia.
The Capital One Cup may be low on their priorities but don’t expect City to take Wednesday lightly.World weary manager Manuel Pellegrini knows he is almost certainly going to be replaced at the end of the season so appears determined to go out with a bang and clean up the lot.
Their may be the odd change, Willy Caballero will start in goal for example, but I expect City’s big stars to be lining up come kick-off time at the Etihad Stadium.
Kevin Mirallas and Muhamed Besic have been ruled out with injuries suffered during the first half against Swansea. Tom Cleverley, James McCarthy, Arouna Kone and Steven Pienaar are pushing for recalls in their absence.
Seamus Coleman came off the bench at the weekend and may earn a starting spot in place of Bryan Oviedo. Captain Phil Jagielka was rested after only just returning from a knee injury and will return to the heart of the defence. Joel Robles will continue in his role as cup ‘keeper in place of the much-maligned Tim Howard.
The final word
Sunday’s performance has left everyone feeling deflated but there are reasons to be optimistic. Everton’s record away from home is better than their form at Goodison this season and only two weeks ago they came away from the Etihad with a well earned goalless draw – a repeat on Wednesday will be enough to send them to Wembley.
Predicted Everton XI: Robles, Coleman, Jagielka, Stones, Baines, Cleverley, Barry, Deulofeu, Barkley, Kone, Lukaku.