Preview: Everton v Manchester City

City’s run of five consecutive victories comes up against an Everton side unbeaten in six league games for Roberto Mancini’s toughest test yet. Arsene Wenger conceded his side were grateful to get a point at home to Everton last weekend.

Forget their current position, Everton are back in the kind of form that saw them finish fifth in the Premier League last season. Yet City will still be going there looking to win, such is the confidence in the team at the moment.

City are likely to line up with the same defence and central midfield pairing that we saw against Blackburn, as Patrick Vieira is still feeling the effects of his calf injury. The 6′ 3″ Frenchman might have been useful against a physical Everton side who are dangerous in the air from set pieces.

To combat the Everton threat, Mancini may consider bringing back Onuoha if he’s fit, and moving Richards to right-back. There’s talk that Gareth Barry’s groin could do with a rest, but this is unlikely until Vieira’s ready to step in.

Once again it’s the flanks where Mancini has the biggest choices to make (and the biggest egos to massage). If Bellamy’s knees can only manage Everton or Manchester United, then it will be interesting to see which one he plays in. His tracking back might be needed in both, particularly as left-back is our weakest defensive position.

Petrov didn’t look happy on the right-wing against Blackburn so Shaun Wright-Phillips could return. Not for the first time, the most intriguing question is whether Robinho gets a start. The Brazilian performed well as a substitute in the last two games, and the manager has once again spoke positively of him.

Roberto Mancini:

“Robinho is technically a top player. I watched him a lot of times when he played for Real Madrid and then Manchester City. I have spoken to him but I don’t want to change his mentality.

“I think he can play in different ­positions, in attack or on the left or right [of midfield], but I don’t know yet what his best position is.”

Up front Benjani did ok against Middlesbrough and Blackburn, but Everton will be a tougher test where the extra quality of Santa Cruz might be needed. Yet again there are doubts about the fitness of the Paraguayan as the Manchester Evening News say he’s had a trip to Barcelona for treatment on tendonitis. With Adebayor absent, it’s matches like this where City need Santa Cruz and it’s mighty frustrating that his fitness is still in doubt.

Carlos Tevez may find himself the focus of Evertonian attention following his headline grabbing hat-trick, but City have enough of a goal-threat elsewhere to take advantage of any doubling up on the Argentinian.

For Everton, there’s a chance Sylvain Distin may return from injury, while Lucas Neill could play his last game before departing for Galatasaray. Let’s hope his mind’s already in Turkey.

No doubt memories of the Joleon Lescott transfer will still be in the minds of David Moyes and a lot of Everton fans, ensuring City receive a hot reception. Thankfully Mancini has instilled a discipline that is able to take the sting out of a game.

Let’s hope the Italian’s fury at conceding a goal on Monday results in a return to the shut-outs of his first three games. Against a feisty Everton, this may not be a high-scoring encounter.

However a positive result would be good for our league position as, thanks to the quirks of the fixture list, Spurs will play an additional three games before our next league match. It seems strange that games postponed last weekend are being played next week, while we’ve been waiting since August for our rearranged home fixture against Everton.

Regardless, with Everton having recently drawn away to Chelsea and Arsenal, a draw at Goodison would indicate City are still on course for a top four finish. A win and the talk will be of a bid for the title!

Blue Days line-up: Given, Richards, Onuoha, Kompany, Garrido, de Jong, Barry, Petrov, Robinho, Tevez, Santa Cruz.

Prediction: 2-0 to City.


Last season’s 2-1 victory, featuring what I thought was the “pass of the season” – Elano’s first time ball to Robinho for the first goal.

Verdict: Manchester City 4 Blackburn Rovers 1
Verdict: Everton 2 Manchester City 0

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