Manchester City-Everton Preview


Manchester City know the Premier League title is theirs for the taking, but they also realise they can take nothing for granted as they enter the bogey ground of Goodison Park on Saturday for a key crunch match versus an Everton squad still in contention for the last Champions League spot.

The two top-5 squads enter their match in Merseyside with very different agendas. Still holding a match in hand, Manchester City (24-5-6) have the inside track on a second title in three seasons if they can claim the maximum nine points from this three-match, eight-day stretch since they have a superior goal differential over front-running Liverpool.

Midfielder Fernandinho expressed an air of optimism heading into this match, sensing his team's rising confidence that comes with controlling their destiny.

"We are back with a big chance of being champions again, we are not depending on other teams - it only depends on us, and that has changed a lot," he told the team's official website. "The pressure was always on our side because we are a big team with big players and our target was always the Premier League title.

"We will need to play our best football, in the way we have played for the last month."

The return of Yaya Toure proved influential in Sunday's 2-0 win at Crystal Palace as the Ivorian assisted on Edin Dzeko's goal in the fourth minute before scoring one late in the first half. Toure's 19 goals are five more than any midfielder in England, and he is also tied for second in the league with six match-winners.

"They are at home in front of their fans, and they are always good at home," Fernandinho added. "It's a massive game for both teams."

Match-winners, though, have been near-impossible to come by for City at Goodison Park, where the Citizens have dropped four straight by a combined 7-1 scoreline and won only once in their last 15 trips to the blue side of Liverpool (1-4-10). Their only victory over Everton (20-9-7) in that span was a 2-1 triumph April 25, 2009.

And though the Toffees face long odds in overtaking Arsenal for fourth - they're currently down four points with two matches remaining following their damaging 2-0 defeat at Southampton last Saturday - manager Roberto Martinez insists there's a chance and is not concerned about the help a win over Manchester City would give neighbours Liverpool, who are chasing their first title since 1990.

"We look at it as we're trying to get the next six points," Martinez said. That's the only thing that matters. It narrows things down quite easily. They are precious points for us so we can't really afford not to give everything we've got, but helping other teams, that's not the way we do our work. We're focusing on trying to win for ourselves."

Martinez will have to make at least one change to his starting XI since on-loan midfielder Gareth Barry cannot play. Defender Phil Jagielka is expected to be available, though Sylvain Distin may miss a second straight match due to a hamstring issue.

City were 3-1 winners in the reverse fixture. Romelu Lukaku staked Everton to a short-lived lead in the 16th minute as Alvaro Negredo instantly leveled the match in the 17th. Sergio Aguero scored late in the first half, and Toffees' goalkeeper Tim Howard was credited with an own goal after stopping Aguero's penalty kick that deflected off the post and then him before rolling into the net.

Manchester City have never done the double over Everton in the Premier League.