This will be our 6th game in 21 days, and the third time we will have played Everton in that period. I’m expecting some changes, but not too many – given we play that embarrassment of a Villa side at the weekend (I’m setting us up to lose here, aren’t I?).
The injury situation is exactly as it was for the game against West Ham. Eliaquim Mangala and Wilfried Bony are both close to a return, but just miss out. However, Pellegrini did offer some good news on the subject of Vincent Kompany, stating that he expects the captain to return “in a couple of weeks.” Personally, I’m not getting too excited about these quotes. They’re obviously not unwelcome, but given his chronic calf trouble, I think it’s best to take them with a little pinch of salt.
As is always the case in games of these magnitude, the personnel selected are dependent upon the system Pellegrini goes for. Away at Goodison, he opted for Delph and Fernandinho in central midfield with Yaya in the #10. However, given the one goal deficit and the fact we’re at home, rightly or wrongly, I think he’ll go for a 4-2-3-1 with Yaya and Fernandinho holding.
The defence pretty much picks itself at the moment, given our injury record. Having said that though, there is a big decision to be made with regards to who plays at right-back – Sagna or Zabaleta? I’m struggling to argue against Sagna in all honesty, he’s been one of our most consistent performers this season and fully deserves the plaudits he’s received. However, I think this game is absolutely tailor-made for Zabeleta. His intelligent use of the ball in Everton’s final third could be decisive.
Now to potentially the biggest call of all, who to play in attack? Personally, I’d play Kelechi alongside Aguero. His movement between the lines is excellent. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it was almost directly responsible for our second goal against West Ham. His mere presence affords Aguero so much more space, enabling Kun to isolate defenders into his favoured one-one situations.
However, having said all that, I’m not convinced that Pellegrini will start with Kelechi. I think it is much more likely that Raheem will return to the side at the expense of Navas, with De Bruyne moving over to the right hand side.
Bearing all that in mind, here is the team I think Pellegrini will go with:
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