‘Anyone but Man City’ was what most Toffees fans were saying when Everton were drawn out of the hat first. But Man City is who they have got.
‘At least we are at home’ was seen as a consolation, though given their recent record at Goodison that is not much of an advantage either.
What is true though is Carlo Ancelotti’s side have tended to fare better against the more accomplished attacking sides this season, having beaten Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal, Leicester and Liverpool so far.
It is the teams that deploy a low block that have proven problematic - though you couldn’t accuse Burnley of sitting back in the opening 30 minutes last weekend. Everton were cut to ribbons during a dreadful opening period and could well have been 3-0 down before Dominic Calvert-Lewin headed them back into the game.
The midfield looked lost without the legs of Abdoulaye Doucoure but with the Frenchman not likely to return until the end of April at the earliest, a solution will have to be found.
They have at least had a clear week to try and come up with a tactical plan. It is unlikely to be very expansive - we may even see the return of the four centre-backs formation - and will likely require them to take every chance that comes their way at the other end, but they have a chance.
There’s not much more that can be said about Manchester City at present, other than that we could be witnessing history.
It’s crazy to think some had written off Guardiola’s side after a stuttering start to the season that saw them win just three of their opening eight league games and included a 5-2 thrashing at home to Leicester. They also languished in mid-table as late as December, albeit with games in hand.
But since a 1-1 draw at home to West Brom on December 15 they have not looked back, reeling off 21 straight wins in all competitions. The only time they even fell behind in that run was against League Two side Cheltenham in the FA Cup.
A 2-0 defeat to Manchester United earlier this month proved to be a minor bump in the road, with three straight wins since regaining their momentum.
With a 14-point lead at the top of the table, an EFL Cup final next month and a place in the Champions League quarter-final secured, the prospect of an unprecedented quadruple is on as they head to Merseyside looking to secure a 12th trip to Wembley in just seven years.
Burnley (H) Lost 2-1
Chelsea (A) Lost 2-0
West Brom (A) Won 1-0
Southampton (H) Won 1-0
Liverpool (A) Won 2-0
Borussia M’Gladbach (N - Champs League) Won 2-0
Fulham (A) Won 3-0
Southampton (H) Won 5-2
Man Utd (H) Lost 2-0
Wolves (H) Won 4-1
Everton 1-3 Manchester City, February 17, 2021
You only have to go back just over a month to the last time these two sides met in a game rearranged from its original date in December. Richarlison cancelled out Phil Foden’s first-half opener, but strikes after the break from Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva sealed the win.
Everton will be without both senior goalkeepers through injury, meaning Joao Virginia will make just his second senior start for the club.
James Rodriguez is also sidelined but hopes to return after the international break. Jean-Philippe Gbamin has begun some light training with the ball and is likely to join the rest of the squad in a few weeks.
Fabian Delph is still sidelined with a tendon problem while Abdoulaye Doucoure may not return this season because of a broken foot.
What they said
Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti: “Every team has its own characteristics and Manchester City are fantastic with the ball, really good in possession and with a lot of ability one-on-one.
“It is really difficult to compete there – but we can compete with a good attitude and spirit, with strong concentration defensively and trying to play efficiently when we have the ball. Also, using set-pieces, where we are strong.
“We have to compete but not with their characteristics… with our characteristics, we can compete – above all, in a knockout.
“This competition is a big motivation, we are not so far [from the final], we had a really exciting game against Tottenham and we are going to have an exciting and difficult game this weekend.
“The desire is really big and I hope this desire can help us have more motivation and more spirit.”
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola: “Different games, competition. It’s a final tomorrow, a few weeks ago it wasn’t a final.
“Away, you have to realise how they play, how we can find spaces to attack, control set pieces because they have a master with Sigurdsson as a taker and tough players like Keane and Mina and Calvert-Lewin.
“The quality of players are there. They’re doing well in the league, fighting for qualification for the Champions League.
“That shows how good they have done this season.”
Everton have absolutely nothing to lose in this game. No-one expects them to win against a side who look to have almost unstoppable momentum. But the Toffees have shown on more than one occasion that they are capable of competing with the best in the division. And, hey, it’s the FA Cup. Who says we can’t enjoy a bit of its magic?