Venue: Etihad Stadium
Date: 13 January 2016
Kick off: 19:45
UK TV: Not on TV.
Ding! Ding! Round two!
Everton, an opponent we meet three times this month, were rampant in the first round. Powerful blows from Ramiro Funes Mori and Romelu Lukaku left us wobbling, but a sweet left hook from Jesús ‘the Sevillan speedster’ Navas still leaves us firmly in contention for a trip to Wembley at the end of February. The journey will be booked, or abandoned, in Round three in two weeks time; but first, City must exact revenge in the Premier League on Wednesday. As we all know, too many Toffees can make you sick; but I’ve got a good feeling for us tonight.
The Etihad has been a real Lion’s Den for us this season: we’ve won more games (8) and have scored more goals at home (29) than any other side in the league. Ironically, Everton are the next highest scoring team (23) in front of their own supporters, but their away form, like ours, has been rather unpleasant. Martínez’s under-performers don’t concede many – only Crystal Palace (8) have conceded fewer goals away from home – but they don’t score many either. With just 13 goals to their name, Everton have managed only three wins on their travels this term.
The gaffer has acknowledged that we must be wary of Everton’s counter attack tonight.
“Everton has a style of play, they’re an attacking team under Roberto. They have players in a very good moment so we must be very careful with their counter attack.”
But without who I think has been our best player by a long way this season, Fernandinho, it’ll be interesting to see who Manuel sees as the ideal barrier against the impetuous Ross Barkley. The three Bs – Barkley, Bešić and Barry – combined forcefully to ensure Everton dominated the tie at Goodison Park seven days ago even with Ferna patrolling the space in front of our back four. Caution, however, is not a word that exists in Pellegrini’s lexicon when playing at home and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Touré start alongside Delph or Fernando in a two-man midfield. Of course, it’ll be a different game at the Etihad where, typically, we enjoy more of the ball and focus our attention on attacking rather than worrying about conceding; but playing a more vulnerable midfield two could roll out the red carpet for Everton’s dangerous attackers to target our shaky back line.
And talking of shaky back lines, Eliaquim Mangala will also miss tonight’s clash with a hamstring injury. Demichelis is the obvious replacement, but after seeing him gift Lukaku Everton’s winner last Wednesday, I wouldn’t object to playing Sagna alongside Otamendi. As much as a love Martin for his contribution to this team over the years – his dinner lady ponytail and even that great swipe on Lionel Messi included – he’s not good enough anymore and there’s always a fatal mistake in him. Fortunately, Zaba made his long-awaited return in the win against Norwich at the weekend, so we don’t have to worry too much about filling the vacant right-back slot should Sagna be selected as a centre-back.
Up front, Wilfried Bony misses out with a calf injury – not that he had any chance of being picked anyway with Agüero fit and firing. That goal against Norwich in the FA Cup was sublime – an absolute treat to the old blinkers – and I just hope that’s the start of a long and fruitful run of goalscoring for him. I’d also love to see Kelechi start after continuing his run of excellence in the 3-0 win at Carrow Road. It doesn’t matter how long you keep him out for, he never fails to impress when he plays and that’s the sign of a remarkable footballer in the making. There’s definitely something in that Agüero-Iheanacho partnership and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it blossom to devastating effect in the near future, but tonight, I don’t think I could justify a 4-4-2 formation, not even for my beloved Kelechi.
Seamus Coleman (calf) will play no part in tonight’s fixture and I’d urge Manuel to hit their right-flank with the pace and skill of Raheem Sterling. Tom Cleverley, also with a calf injury, is a doubt; while Funes Mori is available despite needing 10 stitches after suffering a wound to the head in the FA Cup victory over Dagenham & Redbridge.
It’s Round 2, I’m already sick of the sight of them, but I can see us landing a few haymakers against the Scousers tonight. I’m going for a 3-1 win.
Predict the score:
[statsfc-score-predictor key=”D8SJIk7F6vySBuDaFQRSHy11xfbyCt18uXRinj2b” team=”Man City” date=”2016-01-13″ default_css=”true”]