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Everton vs Manchester City - Match Preview | Toffees face tough test against the champions

Things are heating up at the bottom of the table

Everton v Manchester City: The Emirates FA Cup Quarter Final Photo by Matt McNulty - Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images

Everton face the daunting task of trying to overcome champions Manchester City knowing they could find themselves in the relegation zone at kick-off should results go against them.

The likes of Burnley, Newcastle and Watford have hit form at just the wrong time for the Toffees to drag them right into the relegation scrap at the bottom of the table.

Last week’s defeat at Southampton was a worrying return to type, bar a bright opening 15 minutes.

Southampton v Everton - Premier League Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images

Southampton are a decent side in good form but Everton made it far too easy for them and they could not even muster a shot on target.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Everton have a decent strongest XI, but as soon as players drop out through injury and suspension it all falls apart.

They now face a daunting run of league fixtures against City, Tottenham and Wolves, before what could potentially be a season-defining week where they face Newcastle and Watford (FA Cup progress not withstanding) in the space of four days.

It already feels like games are starting to run out. There is still time to turn things around, but the revival needs to start now.

Of course, football has been put into perspective this week following the distressing scenes witnessed in Ukraine.

I am writing this preview all too aware of sport’s irrelevance in the grander scheme of things, but also its importance in providing an escape from what is a bleak and worrying time for millions of people.

The opposition

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Manchester City arrive at Goodison needing the points just as much as Everton.

A little over a month ago the armchair pundits were awarding City the title and lamenting their apparent dominance of the league and the long-term damage it may cause.

However, a draw at Southampton and defeat at Tottenham (either side of four thumping wins in all competitions it must be said) have allowed Liverpool to narrow their lead from 12 points to just three - with a game in hand.

It has probably therefore made Everton’s task even harder as City look to avoid back-to-back defeats.

The Toffees have a dreadful recent record against City, winning just one of the last 17 meetings and losing the last eight in a row.

That win was the famous Tom Davies game back in February 2017, which remains Guardiola’s biggest top-flight defeat as a manager.

Previous meeting

Manchester City 3-0 Everton, November 21 2021

Manchester City v Everton - Premier League Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

City coasted to a 3-0 victory the last time the two sides met in November. Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva and Rodri scored the goals. It could have been much worse had City decided not to take the foot off the gas in the final half an hour. Embarrassingly easy.

Team news

Frank Lampard has confirmed Demarai Gray and Abdoulaye Doucoure will return to the squad after injury, though he will make a late call on whether they are ready to start.

Ben Godfrey is making progress in his recovery from a hamstring injury but is still a few weeks away from a return.

Frank Lampard says he will speak to Vitaly Mykolenko before deciding the Ukraine defender’s availability.

What they said

Everton boss Frank Lampard: “We have to be very organised and aggressive and prepared to put in the workmanlike performance it takes against Manchester City, then take our opportunities to do positive things when we have the ball.

“They generally have more possession than everybody, sometimes by a lot, so we have to understand how the game will look and be ready.

“We can’t put all our eggs in the basket of this being a game changer. But I want to see an approach and belief that we can go toe-to-toe with anybody, and who knows what the game will bring?

“Our away record is something we must address.

“But let’s give the fans a reason to get behind us against City, like they have in my two [Goodison] games to really good effect.”

Manchester City Press Conference Photo by Tom Flathers/Manchester City FC via Getty Images

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola: “Everyone in the world would think they wouldn’t be in that position.

“I’m not there to know the reason why.

“They have good players, they are fighting for being where they should be from the history.

“It will be tough at Goodison Park, but I have full confidence in these players.”

Final word

Frank Lampard’s two home games in charge gives hope of a repeat showing on Saturday. But make no mistake, this will be a tough encounter against a side still smarting from defeat last time out and likely carrying extra determination to bounce back.

Anything taken from this game must be considered a bonus.