December was largely a disappointing month for Manchester City. A win over Arsenal the only highlight, considering losses to Chelsea, Leicester City, and Liverpool in a handful of weeks. However, January has gotten off to a good start with wins against Burnley and West Ham, a promising prelude to a big match against Everton. City currently sit in the fifth place spot and a win is crucial with the teams around City winning. Last time out, City were undoubtedly the superior of the two sides, but horrifying finishing along with Maarten Stekelenburg putting in a performance of his career meant City disappointingly dropped crucial points. Goodison Park always proves to be a tricky ground, despite Everton’s poor form this season, making the match all the more vital.
Kevin De Bruyne has been ill this past week but nonetheless will be a part of the squad, as will Leroy Sané who has been out since Arsenal. Sané’s return is a huge bonus, especially considering his performance against Arsenal. He has been a fantastic outlet when called upon, more often than not in the big matches. His pace and 1v1 abilities were there for all to witness last time against Everton, making his return all the more pleasing.
City fans will be equally pleased, albeit also cautious, about the return of Vincent Kompany. He can be a potentially massive boost to what has been an inconsistent backline, often lacking in leadership, but Everton will likely be too early a return for the skipper. Pep stated, “But everyone needs time when they have been injured for a long time. He has strong mentality and he knows what he has to do”, continuing by saying “Sometimes you need time, in this business we don’t have time, but he has to feel that he has time to come back, the way he has to come back.” The recovery stage is always a difficulty for Kompany, thus Pep will likely not start him.
Another player that will not be starting, or even making the team sheet, is Gabriel Jesus who has still yet to be cleared to play, to the frustration of City fans. Third party ownerships have stalled the clearance of Jesus, despite the signing being made official in the summer.
Predicting a Pep Guardiola side is more often than not a losing game, but not without trying though. After such an emphatic victory over West Ham, it is hard to see too many changes to the side, especially considering the absence of Fernandinho and Gundogan. Bravo will almost certainly replace Caballero though. Zabaleta started in midfield that game, and was fantastic, but I’m not sure he’ll get the start against Everton in that position. Despite only just returning from injury, I’m backing Sané to get the start. He was key in the strategy against Everton last time and expect him to be so this match too. Sterling started up front against West Ham and proved how dangerous his movement and pace could be. I think he could play there, but will switch back to the right at points, allowing Sané the freedom of the left wing.