Preview: Manchester City v Everton

In form Everton are the latest test for City as Roberto Mancini looks to lay down a marker in the race for fourth place with a victory to follow on from Sunday’s excellent result over Fulham.

Mancini may still be comparatively new to the Premier League but at least he knows the danger that Everton present after succumbing to his first defeat at Goodison Park. David Moyes’ team always compete hard and winning the physical battle is the first priority.

If Santa Cruz departs early this time around, at least Mancini won’t be replacing our target man with Robinho – by some distance the worst substitution of his managerial career here. We could do with the big Paraguayan continuing to lead the line as an outlet ahead of what is likely to be a competitive midfield.

We struggled desperately without a target man at Goodison Park, so Santa Cruz needs to play. Will a two man central midfield be enough? There has to be doubts over whether Vieira and Barry are mobile enough to cope with Everton.

Maybe Mancini will revert to having three defensively strong midfielders and just the one winger. This can leave us unbalanced and put to much pressure on the lone creative player.

This is a fixture where Lescott and Bridge would have been particularly useful. Whether Toure and Garrido can keep us solid at the back will be crucial. Kolo does at least give a bit more pace to our defence and this could be useful if Saha returns for the Toffees.

Having the height to defend set-pieces is always important against Everton, particularly now Arteta is back to whip the ball in. In this regard Richards and Vieira would be preferred over Zabaleta and de Jong, though if Everton are moving the ball around quickly, then the tackling of the latter two would be more useful. It’s a tough call for Mancini.

At least the way to secure fourth place is now clear, with going for victories the new mantra coming from the manager.

Roberto Mancini:

“If we want to get fourth spot we must win always. It will be important that we win at home and away.

“Everton are in good form and they work very well on the pitch and it is a crucial game for us.”

Expect concerns about Bellamy’s knees to be put to one side for this one, and hopefully Adam Johnson will get the chance to further show his skills as we go for victory. With the club doing their bit in making £10 tickets available for the third tiers, there should be a near full house to cheer the team on.

The last minute defeat to Everton was one of the grimmest moments of last season at Eastlands. It was a real sickener and three points for us tonight would be a fine recompense. Moving into fourth place may be only temporary with Spurs playing before us at the weekend but, more importantly, victory over a strong Everton side would be a real statement of intent in the race for a Champions League spot.

Blue Days line-up: Given, Richards, Garrido, Toure, Kompany, de Jong, Vieira, Bellamy, Johnson, Tevez, Santa Cruz.

Prediction: 3-0 to City.

Verdict: Fulham 1 Manchester City 2
Player ratings: Manchester City v Everton

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