Preview: Everton vs. Manchester City

Preview: Everton vs. Manchester City

Seeking to somehow replicate their Bank Holiday Monday mauling of Brighton & Hove Albion, Everton return to a buoyant Goodison Park to host Premier League champions Manchester City on Sunday afternoon.

Sean Dyche’s side stunned the footballing landscape by crushing Brighton 5-1 earlier this week, before the visitors drew 1-1 with Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final.

More than a few eyebrows would have been raised when Abdoulaye Doucoure took just 34 seconds to propel Everton into the lead against Brighton, and those raised eyebrows had soon turned into gobsmacked facial expressions when the Toffees continued to carve the Seagulls open for fun.

Doucoure and Dwight McNeil both ended that South-coast spectacular with braces to their name – either side of a Jason Steele own goal – and not even a consolation goal for Alexis Mac Allister could wipe the smiles off the faces of the travelling faithful, especially with some perhaps travelling in hope rather than expectation.

Having ended a seven-game winless run in the Premier League in emphatic fashion, Everton will enter the gameweek hovering just above danger in 17th place before the first ball is kicked, although they could be demoted back into the bottom three on Saturday if Leeds United pull off their own surprise win over Newcastle United.

Not since the beginning of October have the Toffees managed to prevail in back-to-back Premier League contests, but the morale of Sean Dyche’s men ought to be through the roof right now, and Arsenal were served a slice of humble pie the last time that Everton welcomed a table-topping outfit to Goodison Park in February.

Furthermore, the Toffees have only failed to make the net ripple in two of their last 10 contests, although they have just one clean sheet to show from their last eight in the Premier League and have gone winless in three successive home matches, but Man City have had bigger European fish to fry.

It was a vintage Champions League display from Real Madrid in the opening 45 minutes of their Bernabeu battle with Man City, who dominated proceedings in the Spanish capital but were hit with a Vinicius Junior-sized sucker punch, as the Brazilian picked out the top corner with a sumptuous strike.

However, the individual excellence in Pep Guardiola’s ranks shone through too, as Kevin De Bruyne drilled home a sizzling low shot to restore parity and allow the Premier League champions to travel back to the Etihad satisfied with their night’s work ahead of Wednesday’s winner-takes-all second leg.

Prior to that clash of the behemoths, Man City had made a 2-1 win over Leeds United far nervier than it needed to be, but that triumph – their 10th in a row in the Premier League – allowed them to maintain their one-point lead over reborn challengers Arsenal with a game in hand.

The visit of Carlo Ancelotti’s continental champions will no doubt be playing on the mind of the Etihad faithful, but Guardiola and co cannot allow themselves to be distracted from their domestic duties as they seek a fifth top-flight away win in succession – one which would temporarily take them four points clear of Arsenal before the Gunners meet Brighton a couple of hours later.

Out of the mere four points that Man City have dropped at home this season, two of them came at against Everton on New Year’s Eve – being held to a 1-1 draw by the Toffees – but the champions boast a five-game winning streak at Goodison Park since being stunned 4-0 in January 2017; Brighton can now empathise with their Manchester counterparts when it comes to such four-goal humiliations.

Everton Premier League form:

Manchester City Premier League form:

Manchester City form (all competitions):

We say: Everton 1-2 Manchester City
With the infamous ‘Pep roulette’ sure to come into play, an Everton side sitting on cloud nine can make this a much closer affair than it would initially appear to be on paper, especially with Dyche’s side finding the back of the net on a consistent basis.

Fond memories of December’s Etihad draw will also serve the Toffees well, but Guardiola can call upon the cavalry if things go a bit pear-shaped, and a Man City side still involved in a two-horse title race should eke out a hard-fought win to keep Arsenal at bay.

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