Sunday 15th January 13.30
This season they brought us Red Monday. Then they brought us Mersey Monday. Now, on Super Sunday, they bring us Merseyside v Manchester. Whether it’s Sky or, more latterly, BT, these giant broadcasters have a seemingly endless capacity to treat customers/consumers as buffoons who require a constant stream of shiny things and nonsense names, idiots who cannot enjoy football on its own merits. Welcome to football in 2017, continuing to devour itself from the inside out.
Opening their Christmas present
So for our first course, we have Everton welcoming Manchester City to Goodison Park. Ronald Koeman has recently acquired Morgan Schneiderlin from Manchester United and he will be hoping that the French midfielder can inject some much needed quality in midfield. Gareth Barry has had an incredibly successful career but his lack of pace and penchant for fouls and yellow cards hampers them in the engine room.
But do they have the batteries?
However, given that their summer purchase, Idresse Gueye, is away at the African Cup of Nations, Barry is unlikely to be in a position to rest up on the bench any time soon. Gueye has been an important presence in the middle of the park and Koeman will hope that Schneiderlin will hit the ground running because if they cede too much possession in midfield, Manchester City have the players to do some serious damage.
Injuries and suspensions
Having said that, City are without Fernandinho in the middle of the field due to the Brazilian’s weird and costly devotion toward picking up red cards, a predilection which has led to this, his most current suspension. Ilkay Gundongan is also absent from the team due to a long-term injury so Yaya Toure is likely to patrol in front of the defence. If their previous game is anything to go by, Pablo Zabaleta and Kevin De Bruyne will likely line up either side of the big man.
Inovation or hubris?
Zabaleta, a right back by trade, was lauded in some quarters for his performance in their last match but to this column’s eye, he clearly had little idea of what to do or where to go for large periods of the match and although he made some decent runs forward and won his team a soft penalty, he is a weak link in the middle should Everton have the tools to exploit that area. His manager clearly has Philip Lahm in mind with this positional chicanery but the German is a more tactically astute player than Zabaleta and it will take some time for the Argentine to adapt, if ever.
In terms of their form, Everton have started to click of late and have picked up 10 points from their last five games, just two less than their visitors have managed. Since their home win over Arsenal a little over a month ago, they have lost just a single game (at home to Liverpool) in the league, scoring nine and conceding four. Over the same period, City have won four and lost one (again to Liverpool), scoring nine and conceding three. A clean sheet for either side is probably unlikely.
As you might expect, City are favourites to take all three points from this encounter at slightly less than evens. Koeman will have his work cut out against Guardiola’s men but will be confident of breaching the City defence at least once and will surely entertain notions of getting something from this game. A win might be beyond them but a draw is certainly do-able. If that kind of outcome tickles your fancy, you should visit BetFred as they are offering 3/1 for that very result.