Inside the Opposition

Inside the Opposition: City vs. Everton (Predicted XI, Man to Watch, Opposition View)

We were all treated to a magnificent opening weekend of the new Premier League season last week, accompanied with a first away win of the season for City at the hands of new boys Brighton.

This Monday, Guardiola’s men line up against one of last years’ bogey teams as they face a new-look Everton side at the Etihad. Despite their 7th place finish last year, Koeman’s side were a permanent thorn in Guardiola’s side, taking four points against the Citizens, including that 4-0 rout at Goodison Park – Guardiola’s biggest ever league defeat as a manager.

City have also struggled in recent years against the Merseyside outfit, winning 43% of their last 7 games against the Toffees, with Everton scoring more in the process. City star Sergio Aguero is also enduring his longest drought against a top-flight side, failing to score in his last six Premier League appearances against Everton.

The teams will line-up differently from last year’s games with both teams having made several significant changes in the summer transfer window. Can City overcome their recent Everton hoodoo and make it two wins out of two? We’ll find out on Monday.

Predicted line-up

Koeman has not messed around this summer, using the money from the sale of Lukaku to purchase eight new signings, spending over £100m in the process, including the club-record signing of Gylfi Sigurdsson just days ago. Losing their star man may come back to haunt the Toffees but there is no doubt that Koeman has used the money wisely to strengthen the entire squad.

Koeman’s side got off to a winning start in their first game of the season, beating a lacklustre Stoke side at Goodison with returning Toffee Wayne Rooney scoring the winner. The club lined-up in a 3-5-2 formation during the game which worked well. However, due to City’s incredible attacking threat, I think the Merseyside club line-up with four at the back to provide stability to thwart City’s forward line.

Jordan Pickford has started well at his new club, with numerous fans commenting on his fantastic distribution of the ball. Michael Keane has also settled well in Merseyside, scoring his first goal for the club during their midweek Europa League tie.

New signing Cuco Martina, who joined from Southampton for free this summer, will be ready to make his first Premier League start for the Toffees. I think Sigurdsson will line up alongside Davy Klaassen in the attacking midfield positions, providing support to Sandro and Rooney, with the latter playing just behind the former.

Much like most sides we come up against, when out of possession, I can see the trio of Rooney, Sigurdsson and Klaassen all dropping into midfield, creating a bank of five and filling the middle of the pitch to stifle City’s remarkable midfield.

Man to watch

Just days ago, Everton signed Gylfi Sigurdsson for a club-record fee of £45m on a five-year deal from Premier League side Swansea City.

Sigurdsson has long been the star man in the Welsh club’s side and Everton have signed a fantastic creative player in the Icelandic midfielder. A specialist in set pieces, Sigurdsson is a fantastic attacking signing for the Merseyside outfit, scoring 42 goals and racking up 33 assists in his Premier League career.

It is still up for debate whether the new man will start on Monday night. However, if he does, the excitement of his debut and his willingness to prove himself will make Sigurdsson a serious threat, posing a risk to City with his inch-perfect free-kicks.

A view from the opposition

I caught up with the guys at Everton Blue Army, a popular account for Everton supporters, to ask their opinion on the upcoming season, the transfer window, and their prediction for Monday night’s fixture.

Views on the transfer window
The sale of Romelu Lukaku has been a big loss, but using the funds from the sale, we’ve been lucky to add the likes of Pickford, Keane, Martina, Klaassen and Sandro, all of which have impressed so far. Of course, there’s the emotional return of Wayne Rooney, as well as club-record signing Gylfi Sigurdsson, who will make his debut on Monday will hopefully add more goals and assists, as well as his trademark quality on set pieces.

Key man this season
If I had to choose one, I’d probably say Wayne Rooney. He still has an eye for goal and has been providing that winning mentality to the team. His experience, knowledge and leadership qualities will help a pretty young Everton team through different scenarios throughout the season. He will help youngsters like Tom Davies, Mason Holgate, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Ademola Lookman to improve.

Match Prediction
In the past, we usually seem to do well against City, but both teams have added multiple new faces, so this could be different. I’m predicting a 2-1 defeat, sadly for us. The attack of Manchester City scares me, despite us improving our defence in the transfer market, and I can see City just having enough to win. We’ll see.

Season predictions
The team will probably struggle quite a bit until October, as the number of players brought in will mean that it will take some time for them to gel together in a team. I’m confident that Koeman will ensure that Goodison Park is a fortress again, like last season, but it still remains to be seen as to whether we’ll improve our away performances. I think Everton will push the ‘Top 6’ a lot more than we did last season, but we’ll lack that extra quality to actually break into the ‘Top 6’. In the end, I think 7th is the maximum for us this season, maybe with a trophy too if we’re lucky.

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