Inside the Opposition: Everton, Part 2 of the January Trilogy

Tonight, City welcome Everton to the Etihad for an unusual mid-week Premier League fixture. These two teams met very recently in the first leg of the League Cup semi final where Everton narrowly came out on top at Goodison Park.

Can City improve for the middle act of this trilogy of games or do Everton have enough to secure a second win on the trot? We talked to Lyndon Lloyd of top Everton fan site ToffeeWeb to find out a bit more about the hosts, their Premier League form and what to expect from them tonight…

Everton won a tight game last week in the League Cup and now we are playing again, but this time in the league. Presumably you are happy with how the Cup tie went? Areas for improvement in the second leg? Think you will go through to the final?

We knew we needed to come away from the first leg with a lead so, yes, Everton will be happy with the first leg of the League Cup semi-final… even if we could have done without conceding the away goal! That really was the only blemish on what I thought was a really good performance in which we managed to restrict City to just a couple of other clear-cut chances.

More of the same in the second leg would, obviously, stand us in good stead of progressing to the final, particularly if we can grab a goal of our own. We’ve been pretty good away from this season and hopefully we can play off the fact that the Capital One Cup might be the lowest of Manuel Pellegrini’s priorities this season in terms of competitions!

Moving on to the league, how’s it going at the moment? It doesn’t seem like a brilliant season for Everton but it’s far from bad. Is that fair?

It’s been another massively frustrating season so far, to be honest. We have addressed the biggest problem of last season, which was breaking teams down, providing service to Romelu Lukaku and scoring goals but it seems to have come at the expense of solidity at the other end. The number of points we have tossed away from winning positions over the past six weeks has been criminal.

Ordinarily, that would bode well for a team still in a process of development and fine-tuning but we Evertonians have the fear of losing the likes of Lukaku and John Stones in the summer if we don’t finish in the top four this season hanging over us like the Sword of Damocles. Our current position in the table belies how good a side we’ve looked at times this season and we’re not all that far off where want to be in terms of the points gap but it’s now going to take us putting together a seriously good run of results between now and May if a Champions League place is to become a reality.

Will we see a similar team to the one Roberto Martinez fielded in the League Cup? I note reports say Lukaku is fully fit again…

It should be similar, yes, although Phil Jagielka will surely start this time and Martinez will probably be forced into a couple of other changes after Seamus Coleman and Tom Cleverley came off with injuries in last week’s first leg. Cleverley is rated as having a 50-50 chance of playing which, if he does, would solve the question of who will fill that nebulous left-midfield role that has been occupied to questionable effect by Arouna Kone recently.

Coleman is definitely out, though, which means either having to play the veteran Tony Hibbert for the first time this season after a lengthy absence through injury, moving John Stones to right back (something Martinez recently said wasn’t a real option but may be prudent against City) or using Bryan Oviedo as a makeshift right back as he did in the FA Cup win over Dagenham & Redbridge on Saturday.

I’ve noticed a bit of bother about the goalkeeper situation at Everton. Can you give us a quick run down of that? And who is more likely to start – Joel Robles or Tim Howard?

It’s been clear to most Evertonians for over a year now that age has caught up with Howard and it’s time to ease him out of the team. He had an awful six months following his heroics in the 2014 World Cup, rediscovered some form in the second half of last season, but is once again costing us goals with individual errors and a general inability to command his area which is causing unnecessary nervousness in the defence.

It’s got to the point where supporters have been getting on his back at Goodison Park which is not helping anyone, but it’s a symptom of the fans’ frustrations. Howard doesn’t pick himself but he’s also shown no humility or acknowledgement that his form has been poor at times over the past 18 months.

Martinez continues with his mystifyingly stubborn insistence on selecting him, though, despite age, form and logic suggesting that Joel Robles now deserves an extended run in the team instead of Howard to see if he is capable of  being the American’s long-term successor. So, we fully expect Howard to start at the Etihad Stadium in the Premier League game while Robles will be back between the sticks for the League Cup second leg.

Predicted Everton line up? And predicted score? 

Martinez’s line-up has been fairly easy to predict in recent weeks but the afore-mentioned injuries make it trickier to predict this time. If Cleverley doesn’t make it, my guess is that the manager will opt for the more defensively-minded Aaron Lennon  on the right flank (with Gerard Deulofeu on the bench as a second-half weapon), goes for Kone on the left behind Lukaku, and plays Oviedo at right back in the following line-up: Howard, Oviedo, Stones, Jagielka, Baines, Barry, Besic, Lennon, Barkley, Kone, Lukaku.

As for the score, I think it’ll end in a draw, maybe 1-1. I expect Everton to play it fairly safe in the first half like we did in the cup game and then be a bit more adventurous after the break if things are level or close.

Thanks a lot, Lyndon. Good luck tonight and we will see you again soon…

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Written by Alex Timperley

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