Manchester City return to Premier League action after lifting the Club World Cup trophy in Saudi Arabia as they head to Goodison Park to take on Everton on Wednesday.
Despite last month’s ten-point deduction, the Toffees came into the festive period boasting a four-point lead on 18th-placed Luton Town even after a 2-1 loss at Tottenham Hotspur last weekend.
Sean Dyche’s side generated a higher xG rate than their hosts in north London but failed to avoid defeat as Arnaut Danjuma’s late screamer bounced off the post and off the line.
Last week was tough for Everton. Before a stomach-wrenching result at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, they bowed out of the EFL Cup quarter-finals on penalties to Fulham.
However, the impending return to Goodison offers some respite, with Dyche’s team winning their last two home league outings via multi-goal margins and without conceding.
Chelsea and Newcastle United were on the receiving end of Everton’s blistering home form in that sequence, suggesting the newly-crowned world champions can’t take anything for granted.
Man City won the only missing piece of silverware last week, putting four unanswered goals past Copa Libertadores holders Fluminense in a one-sided Club World Cup showpiece in Jeddah.
But the Cityzens’ domestic form before the tournament was rather dire.
For the first time since March 2016, they’ve only won once in six Premier League matches (D4, L1), casting doubt on their quest to become the first-ever side to win four titles on the trot.
After dispatching Chelsea and Newcastle, Everton could win three top-flight games at Goodison for the first time since September 2021, testifying to Dyche’s sterling job on Merseyside.
While achieving that feat against the three-time consecutive champions would be a significant morale boost in these uncertain times, the Toffees haven’t fared well against Man City in their recent home meetings.
Not only have Everton lost all six Premier League home encounters against Pep Guardiola’s side since a 4-0 victory in January 2017, but they conceded precisely three goals on four occasions.
Scoring also proved an issue during that stretch, with the Goodison outfit failing to get on the scoresheet in their last three competitive home clashes against the Cityzens.
Man City’s superb form in Liverpool bodes well for Guardiola’s bid to whittle down a six-point deficit on table-topping Arsenal, with his side also having a game in hand.
But the visitors should not get ahead of themselves, considering they’ve blown hot and cold across their last three Premier League travels (W1, D1, L1), most recently needing a second-half comeback to beat Luton 2-1.
And while Guardiola’s frontline runs like clockwork, his backline has shown multiple signs of weakness, going seven straight top-flight games without a clean sheet.
City’s defensive frailties have often proved detrimental on the road, as each of their three league defeats this season has come outside the Etihad after City conceded the opening goal.
Dele Alli and Idrissa Gueye are the only definite absentees in the Everton camp. Ashley Young, Seamus Coleman and Abdoulaye Doucoure are facing a race against time to make the matchday squad.
As for Man City, Guardiola welcomed Kevin De Bruyne back from a lengthy spell on the sidelines during the Club World Cup but refused to take any risks with the Belgian playmaker.
De Bruyne is more likely to sit this trip out. The same goes for Jeremy Doku, but Erling Haaland will probably return to the starting XI after being rested in the Middle East.
Everton potential starting line-up:
(4-2-3-1): Jordan Pickford; Nathan Patterson, James Tarkowski, Jarrad Branthwaite, Vitaliy Mykolenko; Andre Gomes, Amadou Onana; Jack Harrison, James Garner, Dwight McNeil; Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Manchester City potential starting line-up:
(4-2-3-1): Ederson; Kyle Walker, John Stones, Manuel Akanji, Nathan Ake; Mateo Kovacic, Rodri; Bernardo Silva, Julian Alvarez, Phil Foden; Erling Haaland.
We Say: Everton 1-2 Manchester City
Wednesday’s match between Everton and Man City marks the 17th meeting between Dyche and Guardiola, with the Spaniard emerging victorious in 15 of their previous 16 H2Hs.
Not just that, Dyche’s sides have conceded 49 goals and netted only six in that period, making our prediction a no-brainer.
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