With Everton coming off of a difficult loss to a surging Southampton side, hosting a Manchester City side that also lost last weekend is not the ideal tie for the Blues. Yet Frank Lampard and company will have to put on a better showing than they displayed against the Saints - perhaps their best of the season - to nick a point or even three from the defending Premier League champions.
It will take big games from old and new names on Merseyside alike. Dominic Calvert-Lewin will have to take his chances when he gets them - and capitalize on those chances as well; Richarlison, Demarai Gray, Donny van de Beek and Dele Alli will all have to penetrate the tough City defense and influence the match in some manner for the Toffees to shock the Premier League leaders, but it is not impossible.
RBM: Firstly, Manchester City were on an absolute tear across all competitions before the defeat to Tottenham Hotspur this past Saturday; what is the energy and feeling like around this club and the City supporters?
Surprisingly pessimistic. That’s typical City for you. Most though, I would say have had a level-headed approach and still see we are favorites both in the PL and the UCL. Still, Spurs being a constant trip-up does not sit well with a lot of the supporters.
RBM: How is this Manchester City outfit - and the way that they play - similar and different from those styles of years past?
It’s a lot more well-organized and fluid. This could be Pep’s best coaching job to date as he has contributors on all fronts and a pretty stout defense group. The emergence of Joao Cancelo, Bernardo Silva and return to world-class form by Raheem Sterling have all contributed to this season being excellent on the pitch.
RBM: How have injuries to Jack Grealish and Gabriel Jesus impacted this team this season, and who has stepped up around and across the team, both in England and in Europe?
Surprisingly not that much. Riyad Mahrez and Sterling’s rise in form has provided much relief for City. The depth may not be there, but as long as those two and Phil Foden are healthy, City run like a well-oiled machine. Add a surging Bernardo Silva who has played seemingly everywhere for us and we are up to pace with prior title-winning sides even with injuries.
RBM: If you had to choose a player as most valuable to this City side this season, who would you choose and why would you choose him?
Has to be Riyad Mahrez, the Algerian has really upped his game and fits really nicely into this side. Both him and Sterling’s influence cannot be ignored as they lead the team in goals and Mahrez especially so as he contributes in the assist making and has solved City’s penalty crisis by being clinical from the spot. Add all that up and he has been our MVP. Sterling and Bernardo close behind him.
RBM: How do you expect City to set up on Saturday? How will City choose to control this match and look to handle Everton, and who is a particular player that the Toffees should watch out for?
City should lineup with its typical 4-3-3 and our front three should be Mahrez, Foden and Sterling. City like to have the ball and under Pep that is of utmost importance in being a machine-like team with pre-ordained movements, patterns and goal sequences. The goal is to get as close to a tap-in as possible. Everton should be mindful not to forget Kevin De Bruyne, who with the other players in high form, has been a little more quiet than usual, don’t be shocked if he puts in a MOTM performance.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday’s match?
City should be up to the task and a little bit tee’d off after the Spurs result. I expect a great performance and win. 3-1 City.
Our thanks to Saul for his time.