Goodison Park, Liverpool
Wednesday 6th January 2016, 1900 GMT
Roberto Mart nez’s Everton host Manchester City on Wednesday in the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final tie, with the Toffees still looking for their first win this season against a top 10 Premier League team
Although the Goodison Park crowd has borne witness to some fine football this season, fans have started to question whether Roberto Mart nez’s engaging, attractive style has any real substance to it. The Toffees lie in 11th place in the Premier League table, without a win against any of the top 10 sides in the Premier League thus far.
As such, the semi-final against Manchester City is the perfect opportunity to change that record and get a step closer to winning silverware for the first time in over two decades.
Manuel Pellegrini, meanwhile, won this competition in his first season in charge of Manchester City, and will know that doing so again might just be the catalyst for his side to fulfill their lofty ambitions as far as the Premier League is concerned.
Team News and Tactics
The home side will be without the services of captain Phil Jagielka (owing to a knee injury), who returned to the matchday squad in the 1-1 draw against Tottenham Hotpsur on Sunday, but is still lacking in match fitness. The partnership of John Stones and Ramiro Funes Mori has been questioned of late due to the team’s propensity to leak goals, while goalkeeper Tim Howard has also been the subject of criticism for his poor form.
Jagielka’s timely return, then, is of paramount importance to the side, and Everton must make sure that they have everything to fight for going into the second leg of the tie, when the Englishman will presumably be ready to play.
Mart nez has largely stuck to a 4-3-3 formation for his side, and that is unlikely to change on Wednesday. Given City’s strength down the middle, the Spaniard might be tempted to adopt a more cautious approach and play all of Gareth Barry, Tom Cleverley and James McCarthy in midfield, with Ross Barkley pushed further up the field.
There is also a decision for the former Wigan Athletic manager to make in terms of selecting a player on the right wing. Gerard Deulofeu has been in good form of late, but both Kevin Mirallas and Aaron Lennon could do with some playing time. Manchester City’s centre-backs have been suspect on the ball in recent weeks, and Everton have the players to press high and force mistakes — something Mart nez will no doubt try and work to his advantage.
Possible starting line-up (4-3-3): Howard; Coleman, Stones, Funes Mori, Baines; McCarthy, Barry (C), Cleverley; Deulofeu, Lukaku, Barkley
Like his Spanish counterpart, Manuel Pellegrini will also be without the services of his centre-back and captain, with Vincent Kompany still continuing his recovery from a calf injury. Meanwhile, England midfielder Fabian Delph is doubtful with a knee injury, although the Chilean has enough options in central midfield given Fernando’s return to fitness.
The come-from-behind win against Watford on Saturday would no doubt have lifted the spirits of the Manchester City players, who now have the opportunity to get a step closer to the first available silverware of the season.
Pellegrini has never been one to shy away from attacking the opposition, and as such, is unlikely to make any special plans to contain the home side. A 4-2-3-1 is likely again, and the Chilean will presumably play his strongest squad given he has the opportunity to rest players in the third round of the FA Cup this weekend.
City’s success will largely depend on how often and how accurately they can get the ball to the likes of De Bruyne and Silva in the space between the Everton midfield and defence, and consequently, how they can expose the defensively suspect partnership of Stones and Funes Mori. Pellegrini will be wary about the Toffees’ pace on the break however, and Fernandinho is once again likely to be tasked with protecting a central defensive partnership that has looked far from convincing this season.
. Possible starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Hart (C), Zabaleta, Mangala, Otamendi, Clichy; Fernandinho, Tour ; Navas, Silva, De Bruyne; AgA?ero
- Manchester City have scored at least 4 goals in each of their Capital One Cup matches thus far this season.
- All of Everton’s victories this season have come against sides placed below them in the Premier League table.
- Manchester City are undefeated in their last three visits to Goodison Park (W2 D1).
- Everton have never won the League Cup, and their last appearance in the tournament’s final was in 1984.
- Manchester City have won the tournament thrice, with their latest triumph coming in 2014.
Player to watch out for
Romelu Lukaku (Everton)
The Belgian has been in fine goalscoring form for Everton this season, netting 18 times already in all competitions. Even so, Lukaku is still short of being the genuine difference-maker that he can be in big games, and ties such as this provide the perfect platform for him to become just that.
Eliaquim Mangala and NicolA?s Otamendi have both looked vulnerable at times this season, and the Everton talisman must be alert to capitalise on any slip-ups they might make, particularly when playing out from the back. With the 22-year-old scoring three goals in four League Cup games so far, Lukaku is the man to watch for this much-anticipated semi-final first-leg.
Everton 1 – 1 Manchester City
Everton will be motivated to try and get a result in front of a sold-out Goodison Park, and although they have found Manchester City a particularly difficult team to beat, they should be able to give themselves a chance going into the second leg. A score draw is likely on Wednesday evening.
Blast from the past