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Everton Faces an Ideal Opportunity to Accrue Some Vital Impetus in Clash Against City

Everton

That’s right, for Everton—who have lost four consecutive Premier League games—a match against Manchester City—the in-form, reigning champions—is the ideal game to breath some life back into their stuttering campaign.

Still with me? As is obvious already, the aforementioned premise isn’t based entirely upon recent tangible evidence. The Toffees have been abject in their league exploits over the festive period and after a run of losses Evertonians are looking tentatively over their shoulder; Roberto Martinez’s men are just four points clear of the relegation zone.

But after Romelu Lukaku’s last-gasp equaliser against West Ham United, the Toffees made a crucial positive step on the long road back to their best form. A win against City would expedite that process even further.

It’s a result that’s not beyond Everton, either. City have a terrible record against the Toffees at Goodison Park, losing on four of the last five occasions that his fixture has been played.

While each of those matches have been played on the back of various permutations—the only win in those five for City came last season, when a Toffees triumph would have handed all but handed rivals Liverpool the title—sometimes teams find a venue tough in perpetuity. Just look at Barcelona; their most recent loss to Real Sociedad means they’ve gone a whopping eight years without a win at the Anoeta.

The Everton supporters will be acutely aware of City’s perennial problems on Merseyside too. While the FA Cup clash with West Ham drew in a meager attendance of circa 22,000, to their credit and despite recent tribulations, the Toffees faithful have sold out this match and after Lukaku’s midweek salvo, spirits should be high amongst the watching Evertonians.

For those of a royal blue persuasion, this is something that the players will hopefully be into. Too often this campaign Goodison has been a hotbed of angst and apprehension, something that’s hampered the Toffees and spurred on opponents. At it’s best, the old ground’s fervent atmosphere can give Everton an edge and the visit of City is an ideal occasion to rekindle that kind of backdrop.

The champions are a fine side, though. In recent weeks they’ve showcased the mentality of title winners, getting over the line in tight matches despite lacking an orthodox forward. On the face of things, the polished midfield talents of David Silva and Samir Nasri could pull this Everton team—which has far too accommodating at the back—to pieces on Saturday afternoon.

Everton know they’re going to have to defend for long spells here and while that facet of their play has left much to be desired on myriad occasions recently, again—as paradoxical as it might sound—that could suit them.

Too often this season there’s been a sense that defensive diligence has been superseded by attacking fluidity, and consequentially those at the back don’t seem completely switched on. But against City, the goalkeeper and back four know they’re going to be in for a tough afternoon and their focus should remain intact.

Indeed, City’s class means that the Blues are likely to be pinned back in this one for long spells and again, that could play into their hands. Martinez’s men have put in their best performances of the campaign—for 80 minutes at home to Arsenal and away to Wolfsburg—when playing on the counter attack and given the personnel likely to start the game, it’s a ploy that fits Everton well.

Lukaku, Ross Barkley and Kevin Mirallas are all attacking players that thrive when the ball is played in front of them with space to run into. The vastly improved displays from the former of the two against the Hammers came as a result of a more direct impetus, as Everton’s transitions were slicker and forward passes were sharper.

Despite their prosperous run of results, there have been a few chinks in City’s armory as of late, too. They’ve surrendered two-goal leads in their last two league matches against Burnley and Sunderland—although they eventually went on to win the latter 3-2—and a strong XI was also made to work very hard by Sheffield Wednesday in a recent FA Cup tie, as Manuel Pellegrini’s side came from behind to win 2-1.

Admittedly, if the champions wake up and turn on the style, then any side in the world will find it tough to cope. But the nexus of this squad of players have suffered plenty of defeats at Goodison and despite Everton’s recent tribulations, they know they’ll be in for a game regardless of preceding circumstances.

Had Lukaku not netted in midweek, the vast majority of Toffees heading to this game will have done so emitting a collective sense trepidation. But that strike is a fillip of positivity that the fans and players alike seem to have clung to in the build up to this game and it’s vital that jolt of momentum doesn’t go to waste.

Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball

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