Everton, after jettisoning out of danger post-FFP points deduction since November, have recently fallen upon some rotten luck as it comes to results concerning them and around them in the Premier League as well.
Losing to Fulham was just terrible, and we will not be blaming anyone in particular for the result other than that capricious mistress Lady Luck. Tottenham, on the other hand, was a poor start, mixed with some poor reffing, with a splash of misfortune sprinkled for taste; the results have left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Blues of Merseyside.
Yet this next match is perhaps the most difficult for Everton to play in each year. Against Pep Guardiola and Manchester City, Sean Dyche will have to boss a near-perfect affair for the Toffees to stand a chance against a side suffering a down spell of its own - relatively speaking, of course; City will look to firmly jump back into the title race in a strong, midweek tilt against a side that needs once more to create a bit of space between the teams below them and those sharing space with the side on the table currently.
Who will win? Well, only time will tell - and it’s not telling quite yet either.
RBM: Straight off, Manchester City appears to be in a real fight for Premier League prominence this season; what can you tell us about feelings around the club and supporters right now?
SG: It has improved after the stellar Club World Cup performance and many feel that the lads just needed some sun after a string of bad results in the league. Now that means completing this holiday spell with wins, and if they do that the whole campaign is wide open to win some trophies.
RBM: Why is this side in the state it finds itself in at this stage of the various campaigns?
SG: It is a combination of a few variables, injuries - namely De Bruyne’s - small squad size, and now more matches have all done a number on the squad. But they have proved resilient, and the second half of the season could be a typical City run of wins that leads to a title or two.
RBM: What is this side doing better and worse than previous squad iterations?
SG: Better has definitely the squad rotation, though not as much as some supporters want, Pep has shown he will trust others and that is needed as City are in so many competitions. For worse has been the injury luck and stubbornness Pep has shown in increasing the squad size as he still relies on a smaller than most one.
RBM: Are supporters at all concerned that the Everton punishment could be a glimpse into the futures of sides who are found guilty of FFP rule breaches?
SG: Surprisingly, not at all, the supporters, for the most part, have a deep trust with management, and that extends here, especially after already beating cases vs UEFA and proving themselves in CAS. There has been no real hand-wringing about those charges as of now.
RBM: What are the expectations for this treble-winning side for the rest of the season?
SG: It is going to be to compete for everything again. They are still alive in the UCL, PL, and FA Cup, so going as far as possible will be the goal. Though I do think most would be content with either the PL or UCl, it will be grand to earn either.
RBM: Is this a matter of winter signings or just getting everyone already on the side healthy and into the flow of the year in the second half of the season?
SG: Winter signings have been ruled out, and so now it becomes a waiting game as De Bruyne and Haaland are expected back as soon as this weekend, and that will make for a much stronger team. With that would come results as City will need some help to win the PL this time around.
RBM: How do you expect City to set up this Wednesday, and who do you think could cause Everton the most problems in the game?
SG: I do think they run back the Club World Cup final lineup that saw Phil Foden play more of a ’10’ role with Julian Alvarez at striker. Those two would cause the most trouble and I’d be remiss not to mention Bernardo Silva, who has had a really good campaign and does not seem to be letting up.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Wednesday’s match?
SG: Away matches are tricky, and this one is no different, but I think the quality of the three I mentioned can be enough to secure a tight win. 2-1 City win.
Our thanks to Saul for his time.