Everton face their second quarter-final of the season on Saturday when Manchester City visit Goodison Park in the next round of the FA Cup.
The Blues lost 2-0 at home to Manchester United in December at the same stage of the EFL Cup, and have won just four times at Goodison in the three months since.
City sealed their place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League this week, and sit 14 points clear at the top of the Premier League.
Pep Guardiola’s men, still chasing a quadruple, won 3-1 at Goodison in the league last month.
Prior to Saturday’s game, we spoke to Saul Garcia, City fan and writer for their dedicated SB Nation page, Bitter and Blue:
RBM: Firstly, City have still won 24 of their last 25 games, but what did Manchester United do to them in their recent 2-0 derby win which Everton could perhaps draw inspiration from this Saturday?
Saul: Interesting question. I think United did well in frustrating City’s midfield. They cut passing lanes, were overly physical and finished their chances well. If Everton can do something similar, City will have many problems.
RBM: City have responded to that defeat by winning all three of their games since. Have they done anything differently?
Saul: Not really, I think they needed that kick in the rear to sort of snap out the dream run they were on. It brought them back to earth and, more importantly, focused the entire team more acutely. That’s led to easier chances in front of the net and better/healthier players.
RBM: Fulham were punished for playing a high defensive line and taking too many risks in possession against City last week. Does taking that approach simply play into City’s hands?
Saul: Yes, it does. City love using full-backs bombing forward to expose these high lines. Joao Cancelo, Kyle Walker and Oleksandr Zinchenko do that incredibly well; Cancelo especially, who has carved out a nice spot for himself this season.
RBM: What did you make of the Premier League game between Everton and City last month, and are you expecting a similar kind of match on Saturday?
Saul: It was a tale of two halves. The first was entertaining and fairly even. In the second, it seemed Everton tired. That could be because of the fixture congestion being as it is, and Everton don’t have the luxury that City have with a hugely deep bench.
For Saturday. I expect much of the same, even with Everton having looked pretty rough the last couple of games, losing both. I still expect a tough match with Carlo Ancelotti at the helm for Everton.
RBM: Given City are still fighting on all fronts this season, how much of a priority to you is the FA Cup?
Saul: I think City want to win every title. With a quadruple still being attainable, I think importance is placed on the next match. That’s the only way they will even have a chance of winning all four.
The FA Cup being next on the schedule makes it the most important match to-date. I do think Guardiola wants them all, and achieving something no-one has ever done is a sweet incentive. That makes this cup important.
RBM: There seems to be some uncertainty about the future of Sergio Aguero, now 32, at City. Aguero is out of contract this summer, but do you think City are now a better team without him?
Saul: They very well might be. They still need a finisher, but with the amount of chances City create it really doesn’t matter. Imagine those chances with a striker with killer instinct. City could very well be even better next season.
RBM: How do you expect City to set up on Saturday?
Saul: I expect some slight rotation. Guardiola tried a 5-3-2 last week v Fulham, but I think he keeps the basics and goes 4-3-3 with Zack Steffen in net.
(4-3-3) Steffen; Zinchenko, Laporte, Stones, Walker; Gundogan, Fernandinho, De Bruyne; Torres, Aguero, and then either Phil Foden or Riyad Mahrez.
RBM: Which of City’s players do you think can cause Everton the most problems?
Saul: Kevin De Bruyne is nearly back to full strength and being as magical as ever after a somewhat lengthy layoff due to injury. If given space, he is a monster player that will carve you up.
Then, our fullbacks, and their ability to get forward and pitch in to support, has been a game-changer. It’s partly what’s led to that streak they went on.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday’s game?
Saul: I have to go City, the tactics and rotations made by Guardiola have been spot on all season and I see no reason it changes now. 2-0 to City.
Our thanks to Saul for his time.