Crucial homestand begins as Blues face Toffees – Manchester City vs Everton Preview
Man City v Everton is live on Sky Sports Premier League from 1 pm on Sunday. Kick-off is 2 pm.
Manchester City host Everton in the Premier League this weekend as club football gets rolling again after the final international break of the calendar year. City begin a crucial three-game homestand with the visit of Everton to the Etihad before facing PSG and West Ham in a week that could have huge implications on their European and domestic seasons.
City's form stumbled through October and November with a shock home loss to Palace seemingly derailing their title bid, though a shock draw at home to Burnley for league leaders Chelsea and a derby win for City over rivals United has given the Blues fresh hope and has reduced the arrears at the top to just three points heading into a vital part of the season.
City have already faced all five of the traditional top six now, collecting ten out of fifteen points on offer across five fixtures - Arsenal (H), Spurs, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man United (All A). The schedule is becoming 'lighter' now, although home stumbles against Southampton and Crystal Palace suggest that there are still plenty of opportunities to drop points again. The next week is the toughest City will face until January, with Everton and top-four chasing West Ham to come on the next two Sundays - with PSG on Wednesday sandwiched by those fixtures.
Heading into a vital run in the season, Guardiola would've been more than keen to have a full squad available but two more injury issues and a potential third heading into this weekend will have given the boss a huge dilemma as he aims to balance his rotation across the next week and beyond. It's a handicapped Everton up first this weekend and City will be looking to pile the pressure onto Chelsea, who face Leicester (A) on Saturday afternoon.
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Assistants: Lee Betts and Harry Lennard
Fourth Official: Craig Pawson
VAR: Chris Kavanagh
Assistant VAR: Darren Cann
City will remain without the services of striker Ferran Torres this weekend with the forward still in rehabilitation following a foot injury picked up on international duty with Spain in September. There was an optimistic report given earlier in the week suggesting that the striker is in the next stage of his recovery now and may make his return before the New Year.
Guardiola had only bad news regarding his squad in his pre-Everton presser, though. Kevin De Bruyne, who has had his struggles trying to get into a rhythm following an ankle problem, is now out with COVID-19 and will be out of action for a minimum of ten days, meaning he will miss the homestand and may even miss the next game after that depending on his fitness.
There was more bad news, too. Jack Grealish will miss the game with a knock picked up on England duty and Phil Foden also has been struggling with a knock to the leg, although Pep sounded more optimistic on him, adding 'we will see.'
Aymeric Laporte also remains sidelined through suspension.
With two of City's attacking contingent potentially out, a major talking point ahead of the game will once again be surrounding Raheem Sterling. The winger has struggled this season with his production in contrast to prior seasons but there has undoubtedly been an upturn in form in the last couple of weeks before the international break. Where he starts is yet to be seen but it seems almost a guarantee that he'll be a part of whatever front three-play, given Gabriel Jesus' newly found wide role.
Ferran Torres - OUT (foot)
Kevin De Bruyne - OUT (COVID-19)
Jack Grealish - OUT (knock)
Aymeric Laporte - OUT (suspension)
Phil Foden - questionable (knock)
Predicted XI: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Dias, Cancelo, Rodri, Bernardo, Gundogan (C), Jesus, Sterling, Foden (4-3-3)
The opposition: Everton
Everton's season has been a tale of two halves, to say the least, this season. After starting the season by collecting ten out of twelve available points, the team's form really has stuttered since. Heavy defeats to Aston Villa and Watford in their last six and only one win their last seven - a home win over Norwich - have derailed their early European bid although to their defence, injuries really have affected them in a big way.
Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin and Doucoure have all missed minutes already this season and despite Richarlison's return in recent weeks, Benitez' side are still struggling. They held Antonio Conte's side to a 0-0 draw last time out and were incredibly unfortunate to be on the receiving end of a controversial VAR penalty call, where Hugo Lloris was deemed to have sufficiently touched the ball after sliding out of his goal and taking down an Everton man.
There was a period when Guardiola first arrived when he really struggled against Everton, picking up only two points from his first three meetings with the Toffees, meetings that included the 4-0 thrashing at Goodison in 2017.
Since holding City to a score draw at the Etihad in August 2017 though, the Toffees have lost every one of the meetings between the sides since. The last meeting, a 5-0 thumping on the final day of the 20/21 season when City lifted the Premier League trophy, will have Everton what may happen ahead of this one, with the Blues showcasing their abilities in the Manchester derby last time out.
Everton will take some confidence heading into this one given City's recent home record. Southampton came here and limited City to just one shot on target in 90 minutes and that shot was in additional time, and Crystal Palace came here and won fairly convincingly. Both sides came to the Etihad and put on a stubborn defensive performance and if there's one trait Rafa Benitez has - it's setting up a side to be defensively sound.
Rafael Benitez will be looking to replicate what Ralph Hassenhuttl and Patrick Vieira have achieved at the Etihad Stadium this season
Mason Holgate - OUT (suspended)
Yerry Mina - OUT (hamstring)
Tom Davies - OUT (muscular)
Calvert-Lewin - OUT (thigh)
Abdoulaye Doucoure - OUT (muscular)
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