Friday, January 15, 2010

Everton preview

A trip to Goodison Park is a game that has been labelled by some as Roberto Mancini's first 'real test', following a run of games thought of as easing the Italian into the role.

Fixtures against Everton are not ones we have yielded a great amount of success from in recent times, and tomorrow's game is played with Tuesday's sem-final looming large. Everton's formula is no huge secret, and despite the pace and creativity we possess it will be difficult to break a side as obdurate as Everton are. One plus point since Mancini has taken over is we look far more secure defending set pieces, and for once the hope is that we don't allow Tim Cahill the freedom of Merseyside on corners and free-kicks as we have frustratingly done so often on previous meetings.

The injury crisis that greeted Mancini's arrival appears to be subsiding a little, with Shaun Wright-Phillips, Nedum Onouha and Roque Santa Cruz back in contention for selection, although Stephen Ireland and Joleon Lescott are still to return. With the importance of both this game in terms of league position and Tuesday's semi-final in the hunt for a trophy, I don't see Mancini risking anyone who is less than 100% - with the FA Cup tie at Scunthorpe a likely fixture for those coming back.

Whilst this game is ideally suited for Craig Bellamy, you have to wonder if he starts given his inability to play twice in quick succession and I'm sure Mancini's preference would be to field him on Tuesday. If Bellamy does drop to the bench, it has been speculated that Robinho could start but (fitness permitting) I think Wright-Phillips comes in.

Everton too have a number of players returning to fitness following a horrendous spell of injuries largely repsonsible for their struggles this season. They have in the main continued to grind out results though, and are unbeaten in their last five games (although four have been drawn) and were perhaps unlucky to come away from The Emirates last week with only a point.

Historically, a draw at Everton would be seen as satisfactory and given that Tuesday is on the horizon, most I'm sure would be happy with that return but some momentum has been built under Mancini. The side looks purposeful and confident and we look to be capable of scoring goals, and I think we have too much for Everton and come away with a 2-1 win.

Game notes:
  • The last three league meetings between Everton and Manchester City have ended in wins for the away side.
  • Man City's 2-1 win over Everton last season was their first at Goodison Park since October 1992, a run of 10 matches.
  • Everton have scored 32% of their goals in the last 15 minutes of matches this season, a league high.
  • The Toffees' victory over Burnley in their last home game ended a run of six games at Goodison Park without a win or a clean sheet for David Moyes's side.
  • Man City have just two points more after 20 games this season than they did in 2007/08 when they finished in ninth position.City have lost just two away matches this season, the fewest in the league along with Tottenham Hotspur.

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