After their midweek jaunt to Spain for a training camp and friendly against Girona FC, City return to Premier League action on Monday evening when they face Ronald Koeman`s Everton in the first home fixture of the campaign.
Everton secured all three points against Stoke on the opening weekend with Wayne Rooney naturally scoring on his return to Goodison Park. You really couldn`t make that stuff up. Koeman has not been a slouch in the transfer market and has invested in some decent signings including the highly rated centre back Michael Keane recruited from Burnley, Jordan Pickford the promising young England keeper who joined from Sunderland and Davy Klassen acquired from Ajax. This week he took Everton`s spending to over £130m* with the acquisition of the talented Glyfi Sigurdsson from Swansea. Other signings include winger Onyekuru and striker Sandro Ramirez from Malaga. Everton haven`t stood still by any means.
Departure-wise they have seen the exit of Lukaku (rags), Deulofeu (Barcelona) and the silky skills of ex-rag Clevinho (Watford) as well as Gareth Barry (WBA).
The last 6 cup and league fixtures at the Etihad against the Toffees have yielded 3 wins for City and 3 draws so there is decent home form against a traditionally tough opponent & former ‘bogey side for the Sky Blues. It could be argued that the 4-0 stuffing City experienced at Goodison Park back in January was a salutary session for Guardiola in the Premier League. City were cut apart that day and one can only hope that Pep has applied his analytical skills to the videos of the game and applies whatever lessons he learnt. They will be missing Lukaku`s pace and power up front but the recruiting of Rooney may prove to be an astute move by Koeman. Given a new lease of life after having been eased out of the Swamp by Maureen, he will doubtless feel he has a point to prove and 13 years as a rag will give hime every incentive to impact the game. What are the odds that we are treated to re-runs ad-nauseam of his shinned goal against City in the 2013 derby?
Pep will have liked what he saw from his team against Brighton on the opening weekend of the season. A game where they faced the massed ranks of disciplined defending deep in their own half could have ended much differently for a City side that has in the past struggled to break down such stubborn resistance. Patience was required together with a little bit of luck as Brighton failed to capitalise on their limited chances & the quality of De Bruyne, Silva and Aguero came to the fore in the second half. A momentary lapse of control and concentration on the halfway line by Brighton`s Stephens was seized upon by KDB and the resulting chance buried by Sergio Aguero making up for an earlier inexplicable miss when everyone would have bet their mortgage on the net bulging.
Pep deployed his wing backs in the form of Walker and Danilo and it became evident that Danilo`s right footedness was a major handicap given his reluctance to use his left peg – he didn`t have a bad game but this tendency to come back in onto his right foot appeared to stifle City`s flow on that side. When Mendy join the party this issue should become moot. Walker on the other hand was outstanding and deserved his Man of the Match award from BT Sport. Shout outs also for Silva whose movement and probing was once again top rate – he was unlucky to have been given offside in the second half when latching onto a superb pass from De Bruyne – and Jesus whose movement and running would have had Pep purring. He had a couple of chances and his pressure on Dunk force the error which secured the second goal and moved City into a comfort zone (much to the gratitude of their fans).
Everton will present a different prospect. City slipped up at home last season against Koeman`s side and suffered a serious setback to their ambitions in the away fixture early in 2017. You could say that these fixtures formed a big part of Pep`s Premier League learning curve & Monday evening will be the big opportunity to see whether he can get his players to apply those lessons.
Come on City!!!
*Stats courtesy of Transfermarkt.com
Everton have won all four of their opening fixtures this season although three have been in the Europa League against lesser opponents. Even so they have not conceded a goal in any of these competitive games. New striker Sandro Ramirez is expected to start up front.
Referee – Bobby Madley
Assistants – M Perry; L Betts
Fourth Official – Michael Oliver
Stats** comparison (2017/18):-
Goals per game – 1
Avg Possesion – 57.4%
Pass Accuracy – 78.9%
Shots per game – 9
Dribbles per game – 1
Discipline – 1Y, 0R
City (Premier League)
Goals per game – 2
Avg Possesion – 71%
Pass Accuracy – 90%
Shots per game – 14
Dribbles per game – 6
Discipline – 2Y, 0R
**Stats courtesy of Whoscored.com
City will still be missing Mendy who is not expected to be available until later this month. Gundogan came through his appearance against Girona without incident but I would not expect him to be available for a few weeks yet – they are being very careful with his return to competitive action & rightly so. Perma-injured Delph is also unavailable.
Everton will be without a host of players including Coleman, Bolasie, Funds Mori, Wantaway midfielder Ross Barkley (who faces up to three months on the sidelines with a hamstring injury), McCarthy & Lennon. Although not selected against Hadjuk Split in midweek, Sigurdsson is expected to make his Everton debut at the Etihad.
Potential starting XI, subs & formation
With Koeman favoured a back three and wing backs against Stoke but reverted to a 4-2-3-1 formation against Hadjuk Split. Koeman has almost as many options as Guardiola given the personnel at his disposal so reading his choice of formation is as problematic as predicting Pep`s A fascinating encounter could be in store.
After a 100% start last week I have a feeling I should have quit whilst I was ahead??but here goes!
Walker, Kompany, Stones, Danilo
Silva D, Silva B, De Bruyne, Sané,
Bravo, Otamendi, Toure, Foden, Sterling, Roberts, Aguero
Manchester City v Everton Match Preview