Everton will attempt to bounce back from that rancid performance versus Fulham against a rampant Manchester City side who seem destined to end the season as champions.
There’s not much more that can be said about Sunday’s game against the Cottagers, we have seen it all before, notably against West Ham and Newcastle just a matter of weeks ago.
Their failure to beat so-called lesser sides is becoming an alarmingly bad habit and one that sadly exposes the limitations in the squad and could ultimately cost them a European place.
I’d be confident that Everton’s strongest XI could give anyone a game, but scratch below the surface and there is little there.
Carlo Ancelotti tried to rotate his side as he attempts to navigate them through a hectic period of nine games in 28 days, but it just didn’t work.
Those who came in weren’t good enough, while those who kept their place looked weary after last week’s 120-minute slog against Tottenham.
One the plus side, there are only two games left before an eight-day rest. Unfortunately they are against City and Liverpool.
The City game was supposed to have been played in December but was controversially called off just hours before kick-off because of a Covid outbreak at City’s training ground.
Everton did not dispute City’s reasoning, but were rightly left frustrated that they were excluded from the decision-making process and were only informed once that decision had been made.
Rescheduling the game four days before they go to Anfield is also infuriating and will once again test the players’ stamina.
Had they beaten Fulham then this could have been seen as a free hit. But their defeat means they are under pressure to at least try and get something from the game if they are not to slip off the pace in the race for Europe.
There is rarely a good time to play Manchester City, but it is particularly unfortunate to come up against them now.
Pep Guardiola’s side are streamrollering through the division on their way to another league title.
It all looked so different just a few months ago. Defeat at Tottenham in November left them eight points off the lead in 11th place.
They had climbed to sixth by mid-December after a 1-1 draw at home to strugglers West Brom. But since then they have rattled off 14 straight wins in all competitions to move seven points clear at the top with a game in hand.
The defensive lapses that cost them so dear last year have been eradicated, with new signing Ruben Dias helping to toughen up a backline that has conceded just six goals in their last 23 games in all competitions.
If that wasn’t bad enough, they have an imperious recent record against Everton. They have won their last five against the Toffees, scoring at least twice each time. Everton have won just one of the last 14 meetings, that famous 4-0 win under Ronald Koeman in 2017.
Don’t worry, it’s only Liverpool away after this…
Man City 2-1 Everton, January 1 2020
You have to go back over a year for Everton’s last meeting with Manchester City on New Year’s Day 2020. Two goals from Gabriel Jesus earned the points for City, with Richarlison’s strike not enough to prevent Carlo Ancelotti’s first defeat as Toffees boss.
Fulham (H) Lost 2-0
Tottenham (H – FA Cup) Won 5-4 AET
Man Utd (A) Drew 3-3
Leeds (A) Won 2-1
Newcastle (H) Lost 2-0
Tottenham (H) Won 3-0
Swansea (A – FA Cup) Won 3-1
Liverpool (A) Won 4-1
Burnley (A) Won2-0
Sheffield United (H) Won 1-0
Everton will once again be without Dominic Calvert-Lewin as he continues to nurse a minor hamstring injury.
Jordan Pickford is available again though after a rib injury. Allan is also fit and could make his first appearance since the win at Leicester in December.
What they said
Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti: “I don’t know how much chance we have to win against Manchester City – but we have a chance.
“Usually, in this kind of game, we did really well, so I have confidence.
“Yesterday [Monday] was not a good day because we were disappointed and frustrated. Today is the day of confidence and belief.
“I believe we can play a completely different game [than against Fulham].
“We have to find a solution to try to prepare the right strategy to play against City.”
Man City boss Pep Guardiola: “Everton always has been one of the greatest teams. This season they’re better and that’s normal - Carlo knows better his players. They’ve had up and downs like all teams, that is normal. The quality from Carlo is always there.
“You never get perfection,” he said. “What we have done winning 16 in a row is a consequence of preparing as best as possible for the next game.
“Two months ago we were not in the thoughts of any person in world football about winning the Premier League. A lot of things can still happen.
“All that is in my head is Everton.
“We will drop points, for sure. That is the moment I am expecting a reaction from all of us.”
Everton tend to save their best displays for the bigger sides, but this is a formidable challenge against a world-class side bang in form.
Logic tells you that City will walk it. But if we followed logic, we wouldn’t support Everton. It’s the hope that we cling to.
Stranger things have happened.