The 2013-14 English Premier League season is heading for an exciting finish. Sports Unbiased will select our EPL Match of the Week, where we will preview, analyse and predict the biggest matches in the Premiership.
EVERTON vs MANCHESTER CITY
PREVIEW: Three weeks ago Manchester City traveled to Merseyside with the fate of the 2014 Premier League title in their hands only to fall to Liverpool 3-2 at Anfield. Many wrote off their title chances after that match, but thanks to Liverpool’s home loss to Chelsea last Sunday, City are right back where they were three weeks ago. Currently three points back of Liverpool, but with a game in hand, all they have to do is to win their remaining three matches and they will be crowned Premier League champions. On Saturday, they go back to the Merseyside to face Everton, who are in a dogfight with Arsenal for fourth place – and qualification for the Champions League next season – in what should be the toughest of their remaining three matches on paper. A victory at Goodison Park would almost certainly guarantee the title for Manchester City.
MANAGERS: Give first-year City manager Manuel Pellegrini credit for doing what he was brought here to do. Manchester City are winning with a more attractive brand of football. Moreover, credit should go to Pellegrini for the way he has brought some calm to his club, unlike his predecessor Roberto Mancinci. He has managed the different egos and personalities well. However there are still questions about his big match record. Equally deserving of credit is the opposing manager, Roberto Martinez. The fact that the club is still in with a fighting chance at Champions League qualification is a testament to the great Spaniard, who has raised the bar at Everton.
FORWARDS: Outside of Liverpool, no other club has scored more goals in the Premier League than Manchester City. All this with their top striker Sergio Aguero missing the better part of two months, such is the depth and quality at their position. Now they have their leading striker back for the stretch run to go along with Edin Dzeko, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic. Everton have had to rely on Romelu Lukaku, and to a lesser extent Kevin Mirallas up front. Lukaku was on fire earlier this season, but seems to have cooled off.
Advantage: Manchester City
MIDFIELDERS: The bad news here for Martinez as that he will be without veteran midfielder Gareth Barry. The 33-year old is on loan from City so he cannot play against them per Premier League rules. Martinez has had a nice mix at midfield, with the experience of Barry and Leon Osman complementing talented youngsters Ross Barkley and James McCarthy. However, it is hard to go against City and their talent and depth at midfield. Theirs might be the best midfield in the entire league. David Silva is one of the best play makers in the Premier League, and Yaya Toure (who returned from injury last week) is one of the best all-around midfielders in football period!
Advantage: Manchester City
DEFENDERS: These are two of the top three clubs in the Premier League in terms of goals allowed. Like their midfield, Everton have a nice blend of youth and experience. Leighton Baines has shown some decline this season (perhaps he is not fully recovered from his toe injury suffered in November) has been offset by the emergence of Seamus Coleman, and 19-year old John Stones has star quality written all over him. Everton should also receive a boost with both Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin being available for this match. City captain Vincent Kompany had a tough time his last trip to the Merseyside (his gaffe allowed Liverpool to score the winning goal) and will look to atone for that this weekend. Again, there is depth, talent and experience with Martin Demichelis, Pablo Zabaleta, and Gael Clichy. But this might be one of the areas where Everton can match City in both depth and talent.
GOALKEEPERS: Joe Hart and Tim Howard are two of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League. A slight edge should go to Tim Howard, who seems to be the steadier and more consistent of the two. Hart has performed well for City since the start of the calendar year, but is still capable of a silly mistake now and then.
X-FACTORS: How will Martinez use Ross Barkley without the services of Gareth Barry? Will he play him in a deep midfield role or will he be used to support Lukaku (who might be playing in a lone striker role for this match) up front? It could be a key factor in deciding the outcome of this match. The biggest news for City was the return of Yaya Toure from injury last week (it was feared that he would miss the rest of the season). The Ivorian is the one who makes the entire team click, and it showed last week when he scored one goal and assisted on another at Crystal Palace. The midfielder has scored 19 Premier League goals this season, which is atonishing.
Advantage: Manchester City
PREDICTION: Many experts have point to Pellegrini’s poor record in big matches as a reason for concern, and this is definitely a big match. How will City manage the pressure and expectations with the title seemingly within their grasp? Everton will be motivated for a win to keep alive their slim chances of finishing in the top four and they have lost only two matches at home all season. City are going to have to be at their best if they want to leave Goodison Park with all three points. Everton are going to make it very difficult. In the end, we believe Liverpool will be sending several bouquets to their Merseyside neighbors following this match.
Final Score: Everton 1 (Lukaku) – Manchester City 1 (Silva)
Who will win our EPL Match of the Week?
- Everton (50%, 2 Votes)
- Manchester City (25%, 1 Votes)
- Draw (25%, 1 Votes)
Total Voters: 4