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Can Everton continue their good start at the Etihad?

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The Toffees have won every game so far but face a daunting test against title favourites Manchester City

Everton v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Everton may have made their best start to a season in 39 years but the opposition they have faced so far pales into insignificance compared to the challenge that awaits them at the Etihad Stadium on Monday.

Pep Guardiola’s expensively assembled group of superstars have unsurprisingly been tipped for the Premier League title and will represent an early test of Everton’s own lofty ambitions.

Thursday’s win over Hajduk Split was comfortably Everton’s best display of the season to date, particularly in the first half.

There were definite signs that the new signings were beginning to gel and the team was edging closer to full match fitness.

However, they have yet to put in a decent display for a full 90 minutes, with Koeman critical of their second half performance against Split.

The same can be said of last weekend’s Premier League opener against Stoke, though that result now seems more impressive following the Potters’ win over Arsenal on Saturday.

The belated arrival of Gylfi Sigurdsson will boost Everton’s attacking options but the void created by Romelu Lukaku’s departure has yet to be completely filled.

As a result the team feels incomplete – not the ideal situation with the return leg in Split and trip to Stamford Bridge to follow Monday’s game before the month is out.

Opposition

Man City need no introduction. Over the past nine years Sheikh Mansour’s riches has propelled them from mid-table also-rans to the top of the English game, delivering five major trophies.

The appointment of Guardiola last summer was supposed to guarantee a fifth English league title as well as a serious tilt at the Champions League. So it was something of a surprise when City not only failed to finish in the top two but not pick up any silverware at all.

Guardiola quickly identified the weaknesses in his side, namely in the full-back positions, and in true City style splashed out £125m on replacements.

The result is a squad that looks as strong as anything else in the division and will surely be amongst the final shake-up next May.

They are particularly formidable at home, losing just one of their last 22 Premier League games at the Etihad Stadium.

City are also unbeaten in their last six home league meetings with the Everton. Though the Toffees’ can take heart from the last meeting between the sides - a 4-0 victory at Goodison Park in February that was Guardiola’s heaviest-ever league defeat as a manager.

Team news

Gyfli Sigurdsson is available to make his Everton debut after his transfer from Swansea was finally completed last week. However, the Iceland midfielder is unlikely to start given his lack of action during pre-season.

Sandro Ramirez could return after he sat out the Hajduk Split game with a heel injury.

Ross Barkley again misses out with a hamstring injury while James McCarthy has a knee problem.

Man City will again be without new signing Benjamin Mendy as he continues his recovery from a heel problem.

Ilkay Gundogan could play some part as he continues his long awaited comeback from a serious knee injury.

Predicted starting XI

Our in-depth look at Everton’s potential starting XI is below with the side likely to be something like:

Pickford, Martina, Williams, Keane, Baines, Gueye, Schneiderlin, Klaassen, Sandro, Rooney, Calvert-Lewin.

Final word

The gloomy pre-game predictions from the RBM team will probably be echoed amongst the wider fanbase. Everton won’t have a many tougher away trips this season.

However, the club’s hugely productive summer and promising start to the season means they shouldn’t be overawed by the short trip across the M62.

Koeman’s pre-match comments suggest he has a plan to upset Pep’s lavishly assembled line-up. And while it remains a daunting task, Everton are well capable of taking something from the game.