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Everton at Manchester City: The Opposition View

We spoke to writer and City podcaster Ger Deegan prior to the Blues’ trip to the champions on Saturday

Manchester City v Everton - Premier League
Wayne Rooney put Everton ahead in their 1-1 draw at City last season
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Everton travel to Manchester City on Saturday lunchtime, with neighbours Liverpool hoping Marco Silva’s men can take points off their title rivals.

The Blues arrive at the Etihad Stadium winless in their last three matches, while Pep Guardiola’s champions lost their first game of the season at Chelsea on Saturday.

That defeat, which followed Liverpool’s 4-0 hammering of Bournemouth, handed back top spot to the Reds for the first time since September.

Everton have drawn at the Etihad in the last three league campaigns, with late equalisers denying them victory in the previous two visits, but have not won there since December 2010.

Ahead of the weekend’s game, we spoke to football writer Ger Deegan (@GerraDeegan), who also blogs for and co-hosts a podcast at SB Nation’s City site, Bitter and Blue:

RBM: Firstly, how does this season’s Man City compare to that of last campaign? Have they improved on their record-breaking 2017/18?

Ger: This is somewhat of a difficult question to answer. In my opinion, they have improved in most areas of the pitch, although their points tally may not compare to last season’s.

Players such as Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling have definitely improved as individuals and this is helping the side overall. Also John Stones and Aymeric Laporte have formed a really strong partnership at the back making it harder for teams to create chances against us.

So, yes, I’d probably say they have improved on last season and are only getting better.

RBM: City remained top of the league last season from the fifth game onwards, but this year, Liverpool look capable of chasing them all the way. How confident are you that City will ultimately still finish as champions again?

Ger: I agree that Liverpool look absolutely capable of making a proper push for the title. They have improved their squad depth no end and perhaps haven’t reached the heights they showed at times last season.

While I think they have done exceptionally well so far to maintain pace, I still believe they will come up a little short. I feel we have the stronger squad and will eventually pull clear. The game on January 3 should be interesting.

Manchester City Trophy Parade
City won the league at a canter last season, with title sown up by mid-April
Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images

RBM: In what areas of the pitch can City still improve under Guardiola?

Ger: Defensive midfield. Without Fernandinho, we have nobody who even comes close to matching his ability in that position. If he is to get injured, then life will get much harder. He is the one player who is irreplaceable in this team.

RBM: Having won the league with ease, amassing 100 points, yet only reaching the Champions League quarter-finals last season, which competition should be Guardiola’s priority this year?

Ger: For me, the Premier League is still your bread and butter. I understand the Champions League is ultimately the goal for the owners, and it’s only a matter of time until we do finally win it, but your domestic league should be the priority ever year.

This is only City’s eighth season playing regular Champions League football and while that might seem like an eternity in modern-day football, it’s not as easy as that to win the competition in such a short space of time. It will come.

RBM: John Stones has cemented his place as a regular in City’s defence. In his time at Everton, many of our fans felt he was too focused on playing out from the back and was careless in his defending. Has he eradicated this from his game under Guardiola?

Ger: Understandable at times, but Everton perhaps didn’t have the players around him to complement his style of play. I love Stones. I think he’s brave in possession and is usually the beginning of our attacking game. His ability to whip the ball into feet from his own half and come out with the ball helps the team implement Guardiola’s style.

When he first moved to the club he was careless at times and lacked aggression when defending. He has definitely eradicated this now and is one of the most improved players under Guardiola.

Watford FC v Manchester City - Premier League
John Stones has improved hugely under Guardiola’s tutelage
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

RBM: How do you expect City to set up on Saturday?

Ger: I wouldn’t expect City to change from their favoured 4-3-3 formation. Especially at home. Ederson; Delph, Laporte, Stones, Walker; Silva, Gündoğan, Fernandinho; Sané, Sterling, Jesus would be my guess.

RBM: Who do you think could cause Everton the most problems?

Ger: I think the form of Leroy Sané at the minute is a frightening prospect for the Toffees. Another two goals in midweek against Hoffenheim and he could have had more. Gabriel Jesus can’t buy a goal at the moment so I’d expect a lot of City’s best play to come down our left hand side through the German.

RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday’s game?

Ger: I think this will be a lot tougher than maybe some are expecting. Everton have improved massively under Silva and he’s really building a squad of players who can go away to the ‘top six’ and compete. Everton have always been a sort of bogey team for City historically, but I’ll go for a 2-1 win for City.

Our thanks to Ger for his time.