An inconsistent Everton host a seemingly unstoppable Manchester City at Goodison Park in the Premier League in Wednesday evening’s rescheduled tie.
The Toffees were put to the sword by relegation-threatened Fulham 2-0 in their most recent outing, whereas Man City made it 16 wins on the trot with a resounding 3-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur at the Etihad stadium.
Carlo Ancelotti opted against handing Joshua King his first Everton start even in the absence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and it did not take long for the illustrious Italian to come under fire for his team selection against Fulham.
The Toffees had put five past Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup only a few days before, but they could not break down Scott Parker’s resolute Fulham outfit as a brace from Josh Maja saw the Cottagers travel back down to the capital with a vital three points in the bag.
Having now won just one of their last five Premier League matches, Everton’s top-four prospects are shrouded in uncertainty as they sit seventh in the rankings, although they do have at least one game in hand over most of the teams around them, and fourth-placed Liverpool are only three points ahead having played two games more.
The Merseysiders to finish amongst the top-four this season is currently priced at 12/1 (13.00) odds with best online casinos nz while a top six finish is priced at 11/4 (3.75).
The Toffees’ inconsistent nature is seriously harming their ambitions of bringing Champions League football to the Goodison Park faithful, but the imminent return of Calvert-Lewin – who is expected to be fit for this tie – ought to be a major boost as the 23-year-old aims to build on the 13 Premier League goals he has already chalked up this term.
However, trying to get one over a merciless Man City outfit will require a 10/10 performance from every player on the pitch, especially seeing as Everton have taken just one point from the last 12 on offer at Goodison Park – failing to score in three of those matches before they welcome the league’s best defence to Merseyside.
Hardly any team is immune from the attacking prowess of Manchester City, and in particular Ilkay Gundogan, who scored his 10th and 11th Premier League goals of the season in his side’s routine 3-0 triumph over Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday evening.
Pep Guardiola had already witnessed his side break the all-time English record for consecutive wins against Swansea City before the Spurs victory marked their 16th on the bounce, and it is difficult to see where their phenomenal streak could end at this rate.
With Manchester United and Liverpool both suffering further slip-ups in the race for glory, Man City have opened up a seven-point gap at the top of the standings having played a game fewer than their adversaries, and if it was not Guardiola’s title to lose before the visit of Spurs, it certainly is now.
The visitors make the trip to Goodison Park having won their last nine on the road in all competitions – five in the Premier League – and City are expected to prolong Everton’s misery on home soil with a 17th win on the trot this week, with recent history suggesting that they can do exactly that.
This fixture was initially scheduled for December before a coronavirus outbreak ravaged City’s squad, but Guardiola’s crop have won their last five league encounters with Everton, scoring at least two goals each time.
Ancelotti has expressed optimism over Calvert-Lewin’s availability for this game, so the England international should return to spearhead the hosts’ attack after missing out against Fulham, and his compatriot Jordan Pickford is also in line to return in goal.
However, James Rodriguez went off injured in Sunday’s defeat and is unlikely to be risked even if he does make a rapid recovery, but Allan has a chance of featuring after returning to the bench at the weekend.
Alex Iwobi and Michael Keane will also be hopeful of recalls to the first XI for the visit of City, with the latter’s potential return seeing Ben Godfrey shifted out wide.
The joy of Gundogan’s brace against Tottenham soon died down as he was forced off with a groin problem in the dying embers of the match, and the midfielder was not pictured in training the day after, so he is a major doubt for this one.
Sergio Aguero made the bench at the weekend but will not be thrust straight into the first XI as he eases his way back, and while Kevin De Bruyne and Nathan Ake remain sidelined, Ruben Dias should return to the starting lineup after recovering from a fever.
Should Gundogan indeed miss out this weekend, Phil Foden could move into the midfield three, allowing Riyad Mahrez to return to the flanks as Gabriel Jesus starts through the middle.
Everton possible starting lineup:
Pickford; Godfrey, Keane, Holgate, Digne; Doucoure, Davies; Iwobi, Sigurdsson, Richarlison; Calvert-Lewin
Manchester City possible starting lineup:
Ederson; Walker, Dias, Stones, Cancelo; Rodri, Silva, Foden; Mahrez, Jesus, Sterling
Prediction: Everton 1-2 Manchester City
Man City’s recent defensive record on the road is not as strong as their showings at the Etihad, and the expected return of Calvert-Lewin should help the hosts in an attacking sense. However, the visitors have still shipped just seven league goals away from home all season and their winning run does not look like ending anytime soon, so casino games can only envisage another victory for Guardiola’s men on Wednesday, even if the prolific Gundogan does miss out.