Manchester City will look to pick up back-to-back wins in the Premier League when they host Everton at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Manchester City have not been perfect in the Premier League this season, having already lost two of their 11 games, including a shock 2-0 home defeat to Crystal Palace at the end of October. But they bounced back straight away and were superb in a comprehensive two-goal victory over Manchester United in the derby last time around.
The result sent the Sky Blues into second place in the table, although they have slipped to third after Liverpool beat Arsenal on Saturday. They have a busy November ahead of them with some tricky fixtures, a Champions League match against Paris Saint-Germain next week will be followed by a league game against high-flying West Ham. Building momentum with a win this weekend will thus be crucial for the Premier League champions.
On the other hand, Everton made a strong start to the 2021/22 Premier League campaign under the tutelage of new boss Rafael Benitez, winning four of their opening six games while suffering only a single defeat. The Toffees have been brought back down to reality, having gone five games without a win, suffering three losses along the way, including a shocking 5-2 home defeat to Watford in October.
To be fair to Benitez, he had a depleted squad with key players missing through injuries during this stretch. They will certainly take positives from their defensive performance in the 0-0 draw against Tottenham last time out, in which they prevented the Lilywhites from taking a single shot at goal. Ahead of their latest Premier League clash with Manchester City at the Etihad this weekend, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
— Manchester City (@ManCity) November 19, 2021
Man City boss Pep Guardiola will be forced to do some reshuffling in the attacking areas with injuries to usual starters. The Citizens will be without the services of Jack Grealish, who has been sidelined with an injury sustained while on international duty, while Phil Foden is also a significant doubt after picking a knock during the international break.
Kevin De Bruyne will also miss the game after testing positive for Covid-19, while Ferran Torres continues to struggle with a foot injury. But Aymeric Laporte is back from suspension and could start ahead of John Stones in the starting XI. Ruben Dias will join the Spaniard in front of goalkeeper Ederson, who is a certain starter between the sticks.
Guardiola will set up his side in his preferred 4-3-3 formation. It’s very rare to see the Catalan coach tinker with his philosophy and system. Full-backs Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo are expected to surge forwards and pin down the opposition wingers, especially the latter, who at times is almost playing as a left-sided midfielder while Walker provides defensive solidity with his recovery speed and agility.
The trio of Bernardo Silva, Rodri and Illkay Gundogan could feature in midfield. Rodri will anchor the midfield with his incredible passing ability while screening the back-four. The onus to provide the forward thrust would lie on the shoulders of Gundogan and Silva. The Portuguese midfielder offers the work-ethic and front-footed pressing to maintain City’s dominance while the former makes canny late runs into the box and provide a goal threat.
In the absence of starting wingers Grealish and Foden, Raheem Sterling could be handed only his fourth Premier League start of the season while Riyad Mahrez should slot in on the other flank. Gabriel Jesus will have to lead the line as the No. 9. But one can expect the Brazilian to regularly switch positions with Sterling in the final third..
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo; Silva, Rodri, Gundogan; Mahrez, Jesus, Sterling
Everton boss Rafael Benitez will again have to make do with some major injury concerns. He continues to pick his playing XI from an injury-riddled squad as all of his long-term absentees are still unavailable for selection. Talismanic striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin (thigh) is sidelined for at least another three weeks, while midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure (metatarsal) is still one to two weeks away before he can return to training.
Centre-back Yerry Mina (hamstring), Tom Davies (knee) and Andre Gomes (calf) are also missing with respective injuries, while defender Mason Holgate will serve the first of his three-match ban following his red card in the goalless draw against Tottenham.
Sharpening up ⚡️@richarlison97 🇧🇷
— Everton (@Everton) November 20, 2021
Similar to his counterpart in Man City dugout, Rafael Benitez is a very tactical coach. Still, working with limited resources, he can line up his side in a pretty rigid 4-4-2 system. Defensive resilience, offering little to no space between the lines for opposition to exploit and quick vertically progression on turnovers are the major fundamentals of his teams.
Jordan Pickford is certain to start in goal. Guarding him in central defence would be the reliable partnership of Michael Keane and Ben Godfrey. Both are comfortable on the ball and are crucial at holding onto possession for the Evertonian’s as they look to prevent spaces in the defensive third for City attackers to pounce upon. Full-backs Seamus Coleman and Lucas Digne will offer width and defensive solidity to the backline from respective flanks.
Fabian Delph and Allan could form a double-six pairing in the middle of the park. Both are defensive-minded options, but the Brazilian boasts understated passing ability, which will come in handy in this encounter. There could be an alteration in the attacking area, with Alex Iwobi replacing academy graduate Anthony Gordon on the left flank while Andros Townsend will take up the other wide position.
The two-man strike force of Demarai Gray and Richarlison will lead the charge for Toffees. Both possess extraordinary pace, skills and dribbling to beat their marker but will be vying to be more clinical in front of goal. They will be confident of their scoring chances, with City looking vulnerable while maintaining a high defensive line of late.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Pickford; Coleman, Keane, Godfrey, Digne; Townsend, Allan, Delph, Iwobi; Gray; Richarlison
- Everton have failed to collect a point against Manchester City since August 2017. They have never beaten the Citizens in the league on the road in nearly 11 years.
- Manchester City defeated Everton 5-0 the last time the two teams met at Etihad Stadium.
- Everton have failed to win any of their previous five Premier League games (D2 L3). Only under Sam Allardyce in 2018 did they go on a longer winless rot in the competition (6).
- Among the sides who have never managed to lift the Premier League crown, Everton have managed to win more Premier League games against the reigning champions than any other team (14). The last such match came in a 2-0 victory over rivals Liverpool in February of last year.
- Manchester City have won all seven of their most recent Premier League meetings with Everton scoring 21 goals while allowing only five in the process. The Toffees have only lost more games in a row against only one team, Manchester United. Between December 1999 and February 2004, they ended up losing nine straight matches to the Red Devils.
Player to Watch
With the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish, and Phil Foden set to miss the game through respective injuries, Sterling has the perfect opportunity to prove his worth to Pep Guardiola and remind him of his incredible talents. The England international has only managed six starts across all competitions, but he continues to impress despite his limited game-time, bagging two goals and two assists.
The 26-year-old had recently been linked with the moves away from the Etihad, with Arsenal, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain among the interested parties. Sterling is far from an out-and-out winger or a creative playmaker. He is more of a goal-scoring winger who loves to cut inside and take a shot on goal. He is also incredibly sharp with his quick feet in and around the box. He still has a lot in his locker, and over the course of the season, he could play a vital part for Pep Guardiola’s side.
Manchester City 2-1 Everton
Benitez will undoubtedly have a game strategy in mind coming into this game, and there is no denying that the Merseyside club have a few players who can cause problems for Manchester City, who struggled defensively against Palace at the Etihad last time out. The Toffees will tend to stay compact and hit City on the break and be effective from set-piece situations.
Manchester City, meanwhile, will be missing some key players for this game. It is always difficult to predict the games immediately following an international break as teams lose momentum. One can expect Rafa Benitez & co. to make life difficult and frustrate the Citizens, but The Hard Tackle predicts the reigning champions to eke out a narrow 2-1 victory on home turf.