Manchester City have enjoyed a mixed start to life under Manuel Pellegrini. Despite a blistering 4-1 victory over Manchester United, the club have struggled on the road, losing 2-3 at Aston Villa last weekend and will welcome a return to Etihad to bounce back from their 3-1 defeat to Bayern Munich. Everton have been in impressive form of late with three wins in their last three and remain the only unbeaten side in the top flight. Despite City's loss at home to Bayern Munich the side are 1.65 on to win this game, with Everton available as massive outsiders at 5.25.
Man City are coming off the back of a disappointing defeat at home to Bayern Munich. Several players made errors on the night but the side will probably be relatively unchanged, with perhaps goal scorer Alvaro Negredo coming in for the relatively ineffective Edin Dzeko and David Silva in for Samir Nasri.
The away side will be without Gareth Barry who is unable to play against his parent club, meaning that James McCarthy could get a start in the middle alongside Leon Osman. Romelu Lukaku will undoubtedly lead the line given the impact he has made in just two appearances for the club, but Steven Pienaar will be out through injury which could see Steven Naismith drafted in out wide.
The midfield battle
One area that Roberto Martinez has improved this Everton side is by encouraging his midfielders to use the ball and to retain possession. Only Spurs and Manchester City average more possession than Everton's 58% ball retention, an increase of nearly 4% from last season. The club are also passing it on the ground more, with around 70 more short passes per game under Martinez. Key to this has been Gareth Barry, who is Everton's top passer with 69 passes per game, so his loss could be felt.
City tend to go for two powerful central midfielders in the shape of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho. Both players are box-to-box in mould and can leave space in behind as a result. The power and precision of these midfielders was obvious in the commanding 4-1 win over United two weekends ago. No player in the Premier League has completed more passes per game than Toure, with the Ivorian averaging 80 passes per match, completing 91% of those.
In theory Everton will outnumber City in the centre of the park, three to two. That being said, Everton do not play a natural midfield destroyer (especially without Gareth Barry). The lack of a mobile ball winner will make shackling Toure and or Fernandinho incredibly difficult, especially given that both players tend to link with David Silva, who cuts in from the flank, as well as the forwards. As his heat-map below from the 4-1 win over United shows, Yaya Toure was absolutely everywhere:
Everton will have to be aware of this and look to be pragmatic as well as attractive when on the ball. Toure's ability to force his way out of midfield on the ball will be something to watch for Everton, who will need to stay close to him in order to have a chance of winning this game - a task that is easier said than done. Everton would also do well to get Ross Barkley into the space in behind, especially if Toure and Fernandinho move up the pitch.
Where can Everton have joy?
Romelu Lukaku has been prolific in the Premier League since leaving Belgium. The Belgian forward got 17 league goals last season and has already scored three goals in just two games for his new club Everton. Lukaku will want to do his parent club Chelsea a favour by netting against their league rivals and he could well do that given the form he is in and the fact that City have been far from miserly at the back having conceded seven goals in their six league games so far.
Not only did Lukaku score twice against Newcastle on Monday but he was an all-round menace and will definitely be a handful for Vincent Kompany. Lukaku completed four successful dribbles, won two aerial battles and created three chances for his team-mates, showing all the qualities of a top class forward. Even at such a young age Lukaku is more than capable of causing Kompany problems, especially given his pace, power and aerial ability. If City show some of the inconsistency at the back we've seen of late, they could well be punished by one of the most exciting young forwards in the Premier League.
City are typically very strong at home and as such go into the tie as favourites. Everton though are still the only unbeaten side in England and will want to remain that way come the final whistle. Roberto Martinez will have his work cut out shackling the domineering Yaya Toure but he will know that if his side can exploit space between the midfield and defence than they could have a chance of nicking something, especially with the in-form Lukaku leading the line.
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