Manchester City take on Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday afternoon with Pep Guardiola desperate for a win to tighten their grip at the top of the Premier League table.
City have been on a sensational run of form over the past few months and not only have they overhauled Arsenal’s lead to climb back to the top of the table, they are also narrow favourites to reach the final of the Champions League. The Cityzens played out a hugely entertaining 1-1 draw with Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in midweek in the first leg of their semi-final tie. Carlos Vinicius Jr put Madrid ahead with a thunderbolt from the edge of the area but Kevin de Bruyne levelled things up with a lovely long-range strike to leave things nicely poised ahead of the second leg.
City will be confident of getting the job done at the Etihad to book their place in the Champions League final, and keep alive their hopes of securing an historic treble – matching Manchester United’s achievement in 1999. Guardiola has refused to discuss that possibility and insists his squad are just focussed on the next game. It’s Premier League matters at hand this weekend so the City players will need to put the Madrid game to the back of their minds and concentrate on a tough trip to Goodison Park on Sunday afternoon.
Man City head into the game off the back of a 10-game winning run in the league. At one stage not too long ago, City were sitting eight point adrift of Arsenal in the table. However, their faultless winning streak has put the pressure on Arsenal and the Gunners saw their lead disappear after picking up just three points from four games in April. City beat Leeds United 2-1 at home last weekend to open up a four point gap, however, the Gunners responded to secure a hugely impressive 2-0 win over Newcastle United at St James’ Park the following day.
It means there is just one point separating the top two as we head into this weekend’s action – although City do hold a game in hand which could prove crucial. The defending champions play first on Sunday as they kick off against Everton at 2pm. A victory on Merseyside would restore their four-point lead and put the pressure back on Arsenal to respond when they entertain Brighton at the Emirates Stadium at 4.30pm.
However, the game against Everton isn’t going to be easy for City. A few weeks ago this would have been viewed as a ‘banker’ but the mood has changed at Goodison since Sean Dyche took over as manager. After beating Arsenal in his first game in charge, Dyche has also guided the Toffees to very useful draws with Tottenham, Crystal Palace and Leicester City before overseeing a stunning 5-1 win at Brighton on Monday night. That result has taken Everton out of the relegation zone – two points clear of Leicester – so a shock win over City on Sunday would put them on the verge of securing their top flight status for another season.
Therefore, Everton are going to be fighting for their lives and with the players high on confidence following their stunning win over Brighton, this isn’t a game Man City should be taking lightly. Especially as they come into the match off the back of a draining game against Real Madrid in the Champions League, so Guardiola will be demanding full focus from his players this weekend.
Goodison Park is guaranteed to be a sell-out on Sunday and the Everton faithful will ensure it’s a hostile atmosphere for the City squad. The Sky Blues also have a passionate away support and the travelling end is also expected to be sold out, so there is very little chance of getting hold of a ticket via the official club websites. However, supporters may have more luck getting their hands on a ticket at Seatsnet as the ticket reselling website has a good stock of Premier League tickets available.
If you aren’t able to bag a ticket to attend the match in person, you can always watch all the action live on Sky Sports as the game has been selected for live broadcast this weekend.
Everton have confirmed that Seamus Coleman has been ruled out for the rest of the season after suffering a knee ligament injury last week. Ruben Vinagre is also out of the City game with a calf injury while Bamidele Alli is facing a fight to play again this term with a groin problem.
Ben Godfrey is also struggling with his own groin injury while Andros Townsend will face a late fitness test on a knock so it remains to be seen whether he’ll be fit to face Man City on Sunday.
As for the visitors, they have virtually a fully-fit squad to choose from. Nathan Ake is the only concern as the defender faces a late test on a thigh injury that’s kept him out of the last few games. Otherwise, Guardiola has no other injuries to worry about.
The likes of Conor Coady, Michael Keane, Mason Holgate and Amadou Onana are pushing for recalls after being on the bench last week. However, Dyche is likely to stick with the same starting eleven that thrashed Brighton last weekend.
Man City are almost certain to freshen things up following their draw with Madrid. Rico Lewis and Aymeric Laporte could be recalled in defence to give Kyle Walker and Ruben Dias a rest. Guardiola is also expected to make some changes in attack with Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Julian Alvarez all options for the Spaniard.
Everton XI: Pickford, Patterson, Mina, Tarkowski, Mykolenko, Gueye, Garner, Doucoure, Iwobi, McNeil, Calvert-Lewin.
Man City XI: Ederson, Akanji, Laporte, Lewis, Stones, Rodri, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Foden, Mahrez, Haaland.
This is a huge game for both sides, but for very different reasons. Everton know they will take a huge step towards securing their status as a Premier League club if they can pull off a shock on home soil. And they’ll be quietly confident of doing so following their superb performance at the Amex Stadium last weekend.
However, Man City have Arsenal breathing down their necks and know they desperate need a win to widen the gap at the top of the table. The Gunners are ready to take advantage of any slip-up for Guardiola will hope Tuesday’s game in Madrid isn’t on the players’ minds.
Obviously Man City have a far superior team on paper and should have too much quality for the Toffees. However, Goodison Park is rarely an easy place to go and we wouldn’t be surprised if Everton take something from this game. We’re backing a score draw. Everton 1-1 Man City
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