Everton have played Chelsea, Leicester City, Arsenal and Manchester United in the past two weeks and the only team they didn’t manage to defeat was United in the League Cup quarter final. The three in the league were dispatched with.
Such good results against tough opponents, along with their hard-fought Boxing Day triumph against Sheffield United, has taken Carlo Ancelotti’s side back to near the summit of the Premier League table.
Now, Everton face Manchester City, in what is another enticing but tricky game for Ancelotti’s team during December. The question is whether City can halt this in-form Everton at Goodison Park where 2,000 supporters will be present.
Everton have not lost in the league since a 1-0 defeat to Leeds United at the end of last month and have only conceded three goals in their last six league games representing a long-awaited stiffening up at the back, which Ancelotti has been searching for for months. In that run there have also been three clean sheets.
City, meanwhile, are three points worse off than their opponents and three places below too. There is no doubt that City, and their manager Pep Guardiola, view this season as something to get through rather than enjoying it. With the incessant schedule that is understandable. However, it is effecting their play.
It is somewhat surprising to write that City have only scored 21 league goals so far, which is the fewest of the top eleven teams in the division. Guardiola’s side are not thrashing teams or wracking up the emphatic scorelines that we have become accustomed to recently.
Still, they are winning and doing enough to stay close to the leading pack - their 2-0 win over Newcastle United being a case in point. City have also only lost twice all season which is the best after leaders Liverpool.
Against Everton, City do have a good record: they have not lost against them since January 2017. But Ancelotti does have the edge over Guardiola with the City manager’s only win coming last season when Ancelotti had just taken up his role at Everton. Ancelotti’s Real Madrid beat Guardiola’s Barcelona twice in the sole season they were in Spain together.
City announced on Christmas Day that Gabriel Jesus and Kyle Walker had both tested positive for coronavirus - the pair played no part against Newcastle and will miss this one too. Eric Garcia is the away side's only other absentee, and while Guardiola has previously insisted that he does not rotate to rest his players, there will certainly be some fresh legs for their second game in 48 hours.
Rodri was hauled off just before the hour mark against Newcastle - suggesting he will start this one - while Sergio Aguero is in line to return to the attack having come off the bench on Saturday evening.
Meanwhile, Everton's Richarlison was not cleared to play in this game due to concussion protocols, and James Rodriguez is still not available yet. Anthony Gordon is likely to drop out of the team for this one for Bernard, while Seamus Coleman and Andre Gomes are potentially in line for starting roles at Goodison Park.
Everton: Pickford; Coleman, Mina, Keane, Godfrey; Gomes, Doucoure; Iwobi, Sigurdsson, Bernard; Calvert-Lewin.
Man City: Ederson; Cancelo, Stones, Dias, Mendy; Rodri, Fernandinho; Mahrez, De Bruyne, Sterling; Aguero.
Where & when to watch
The game takes place at eight o’clock on Monday 28th December at Goodison Park. It is available to be viewed on Amazon Prime where host Gabby Logan will be joined by pundits Owen Hargreaves, Michael Owen and Lee Dixon while Jon Champion and Ally McCoist will be commentating.
The game is also available on the radio via talkSport and, of course, you can follow the action right here on VAVEL UK.