Premier League 17/18 Week 32: Everton vs Manchester City – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Pep Guardiola takes his team to Merseyside where they will face the only Premier League club they’re yet to beat this season
17:30 BST, Saturday 31st March, Goodison Park (Liverpool, England) BT Sport
After moving the Toffees away from their abysmal start to the season to the 40 point mark with 7 games remaining, Sam Allardyce still has fierce critics on his back. Everton may have ensured their safety this season, however, they’ve done so in a style far from exciting. Having claimed successive league victories for the first time since mid-December, the Toffees can now look to build on this but will need to overcome the league’s runaway leaders if they’re to extend this run.
The Citizens are once again back on track in the league, securing 4 consecutive wins after their minor wobble earlier this year. Another win on Saturday evening will mark Pep Guardiola’s 50th victory in the Premier League but they will need to sink a side who were the first team to take points off them this season and who also beat them 4-0 in the corresponding fixture last season.
Last Time Out
Stoke City 1-2 Everton (Premier League)
Everton overcame the Potters in blizzard conditions which did not help the quality of the game. With the match proving as much an attritional fight against the elements as it was against the opposition, Everton were the side to come out well on top.
Their cause was aided after half an hour when the home team were reduced to 10-men following a rash and dangerous tackle from Charlie Adam, however, the first half offered little threat on goal from either side.
It was Cenk Tosun who again proved to be Everton’s hero as he continued his newfound scoring streak with two goals that earned his side victory. While the Potters sandwiched this brace with a goal of their own, it was an encouragingly determined performance from Everton who have looked despondent frequently this season.
Stoke City 0-2 Manchester City (Premier League)
It was the turn of David Silva to prove City’s hero as his two goals sunk Stoke and allowed his side to ease to their 26th league victory of the season. The midfield three of Fernandinho, Silva and Kevin De Bruyne were the players who ran the match in yet another finely tuned display which provided little hope for their opponents.
It took only 10 minutes for Silva to open the scoring after being set free by a fine pass from Raheem Sterling. The Spaniard then doubled the advantage early in the second half, finishing a team goal in which Gabriel Jesus supplied the final pass. While it was not on the scale of their 7-2 thrashing of Stoke in the teams’ previous encounter, it was a display which warranted a win by just such a margin.
Ashley Williams is still suspended this weekend while Mason Holgate (ankle) Eliaquim Mangala (knee) Gylfi Sigurðsson (knee) Idrissa Gueye (muscular) and James McCarthy (leg) are all injured for Saturday nights match. This could see either Davy Klaassen or Morgan Schneiderlin drafted back into the starting lineup although a braver choice for Allardyce would be to use Beni Baningime in central midfield alongside Wayne Rooney.
Manchester City Lineup
John Stones will be forced to miss this game after a concussion injury on duty with England while fellow defender Benjamin Mendy is still not match-fit following his long rehabilitation from a knee injury. Sergio Agüero is also suffering a knee problem which should hand Gabriel Jesus a start in attack, however, Fabian Delph will make a return for Guardiola’s side at left-back although Vincent Kompany may be rested ahead of Wednesday’s game.
Key Battle: Wayne Rooney (Everton) vs Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
While Rooney has been excelling in his new midfield role with the Toffees, he will be given a much sterner test on Saturday evening. His ball retention skills will be pushed hard by City’s relentless pressing in this area of the field and he will need to flourish if his side are to have any realistic chance in this match. While he also boasts a fine scoring record against the Sky Blues, 9 goals which is the second-most scored against the Citizens during the Premier League era, it is his leadership qualities and his strength on the ball which Allardyce will look for him to provide this weekend.
Looking to break past Rooney’s midfield barrier will be a player long-tipped to win this season’s player of the year award. While he’s taken a step back from the spotlight in recent months, his standard of play has not diminished although he’s failed to either score or assist during City’s last 3 league fixtures.
The complete package?
After a slow start on Merseyside, Cenk Tosun appears to have found his feet in the Premier League and his form in front of goal. With 4 goals in his last 3 league games, the manner of his play and the details of his goals provide more hope than the impressive record itself.
A strong player with a good first touch, Tosun has taken his recent goals with his left foot, right foot and even a diving header to show he has more than just a penchant for being in the right place and keeping his composure.
Add to this the fact he is still at an age where he’s learning the game at a quick rate and he has many of the attributes which could see him be a success on Merseyside for some time to come.
A strong Manchester message
With the Premier League title being a foregone conclusion given that City lead by 16 points with 8 games remaining, they will be well aware what a win over Everton represents. Their next fixture sees them welcome Manchester United to the Etihad where another victory would see them claim the title in front of their cross-city rivals.
As far as motivation goes, this will be a huge incentive for the Citizens and is likely to push them hard in search of a win against the Toffees this weekend. After spending years in United’s shadow before being labelled “noisy neighbours” by Sir Alex Ferguson, this would finally seal any lingering doubt around the world which side reigns strong in the North-West of England.
Prediction: Everton 0-3 Manchester City
Everton will hope that their opponents have one eye trained on their upcoming game against Liverpool in the Champions League, however, there’s no reason to believe the Citizens will not perform to their usual high standards. While the Toffees are more resilient at the back with the return of their two established wing-backs, they’re unlikely to keep City at bay for 90 minutes and an opening goal could lead to several more.