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Everton vs Manchester City: The Opposition View

We spoke to City fan and writer Saul Nelson before Monday’s Goodison clash

Everton FC v Manchester City - Premier League
Manchester City won 3-1 on their visit to Goodison Park last season
Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Everton round off 2020 by hosting the same team they faced in their first game of this year calendar year; Manchester City.

Much has changed since that 2-1 defeat at the Etihad Stadium on New Year’s Day, and Everton’s best start to the season for 16 years means they go into this game second, three points ahead of City.

Though, Carlo Ancelotti will be wary of City’s recent record at Goodison Park - since losing 4-0 on his first trip in January 2017, Pep Guardiola has won on all three of his other visits.

City have a game in hand over Everton will overtake them with a fourth successive Goodison victory on Monday.

Prior to Monday’s game, we spoke to Saul Garcia, City fan and writer for their dedicated SB Nation page, Bitter and Blue:

RBM: Firstly, how do you rate City’s season so far?

Saul: City’s season in one word could be described as solid. Sitting in sixth, just six points off the top with a game in hand, is pretty good considering match congestion and the bevy of injuries City faced early.

With plenty of matches left and the congestion easing up, I feel good about title prospects.

Manchester City v Newcastle United - Premier League
City beat Newcastle 2-0 in their last match on Boxing Day
Photo by Victoria Haydn/Manchester City FC via Getty Images

RBM: Guardiola signed a new two-year deal last month, which would make his City spell his longest at any club he’s managed. Did you fear he may have run his course at City after the way last term fizzled out?

Saul: No, I did not fear he had ran his course. While it is true he is an aggressive manager, he constantly brings up and makes players better, from Ilkay Gundogan to younger ones like Ferran Torres and Phil Foden.

As long as he still has the buy-in from players, he will be good.

RBM: With a Champions League at City still eluding Guardiola, do you think that will be his top priority this season, rather than Premier League? Or is City’s squad strong and big enough to deal with both?

Saul: They can compete for both. As mentioned, they could be second by day’s end today.

They have a large enough team save for strikers, but if Sergio Aguero can put to bed an early-season injury, they can rely on him the rest of the way. That can prove decisive for competing in both.

Manchester City v Lyon - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final
City were knocked of the Champions League by Lyon in the quarter-final stage last season
Photo by Julian Finney - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

RBM: It’s five clean sheets in City’s last six Premier League games. After a shaky start to the season at the back, how much of their defensive improvement has been down to the arrival of Ruben Dias?

Saul: A ton of credit to Dias and to the resurgence of one John Stones. Starting with Dias, he may prove to be the Premier League’s best signing this past summer.

At his age [23] he has proven to be strong and confident on the ball, and a leader off it.

RBM: Former Everton defender John Stones seems to have won a lot of plaudits so far this term as well. What areas of his game do you think he’s improved most?

Saul: Stones’ emergence as Dias go-to partner has delighted City fans. The confidence that was lacking in him last season is there now and City are reaping the benefits.

He is also seemingly a better passer now and under Pep’s system, that is paramount; he has virtually eliminated mistakes in that area that plagued him before.

Everton v Manchester City - Premier League
John Stones left Everton for City in August 2016
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

RBM: Several Premier League managers have bemoaned the fixture congestion over this festive period. How much fatigue have you seen in City in their recent games?

Saul: Pep knows what he is doing with rotation. Despite the lack of five subs (though, Pep barely makes three now), he has stayed true to rotating players instead of subbing in starters when needed.

So, the fitness is there for all players now that they overcame early season injuries.

RBM: Which of City’s players do you think can cause Everton the most problems?

Saul: It starts with Kevin De Bruyne. He is the engine that makes this team go. From vision and dribbling, he can do it all, and with Aguero rounding in to health they will be incredibly dangerous against Everton’s backline.

Another player of note would be Torres, who had a tremendous game against Newcastle. With dynamism and pace, he will be trouble for Everton.

Manchester City v Newcastle United - Premier League - Etihad Stadium
Sergio Aguero could return to City’s starting XI on Monday
Photo by Jason Cairnduff/PA Images via Getty Images

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

Saul: Predictions are difficult, but given City’s two best players are healthy and Everton’s are out, I’ll go 2-0 to City. A strong defence that has 13 clean sheets in all competitions and Aguero will be the difference-makers.

Our thanks to Saul for his time.