Premier League champions Manchester City travel to Goodison Park this evening looking to keep the pressure on Liverpool with victory over their Merseyside neighbours Everton. Pep Guardiola’s side have roared back to form in intimidating fashion since their slip-up at Norwich City after the international break and face an Everton side struggling for form under Marco Silva
There are not many things more dangerous in world football than a wounded Manchester City.
Ever since their stunning 3-2 defeat at Norwich earlier this month, Guardiola’s side have gone into overdrive with 14 unanswered goals in their last three games, including eight against Watford in their last league outing.
An unprecedented blitz of five goals in the opening 18 minutes gave an indication of the mood Man City were in, going on to add three more for the second-biggest Premier League victory ever.
Preston North End provided slightly sterner opposition for a second-string City in midweek, although the frightening strength in depth at their disposal means that they were still able to play the likes of Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva and David Silva in their 3-0 win at Deepdale.
City will be expecting a tougher test again away to Everton, but in terms of sheer firepower they are Europe’s very best right now. Indeed, their tally of 24 goals from their opening six league games – an average of four per match – is the most at this stage of a top-flight season since Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1955-56.
Guardiola’s side have also scored in each of their last 28 Premier League games – the third-longest run in the competition’s history – with their last top-flight blank coming at Stamford Bridge in December 2018.
City have rarely had problems at that end of the field, particularly in recent years, but it is in defence where the main concerns lie, with Nicolas Otamendi the only fit senior centre-back in the squad.
Despite that, City have not conceded a single goal in the three games since John Stones joined Aymeric Laporte on the sidelines, with Fernandinho slotting in alongside Otamendi and young duo Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis providing a timely reminder of their qualities in midweek.
It therefore already seems a long time ago that Norwich shocked the football world at Carrow Road, although it will not be lost on Guardiola that the result came in their most recent away league game – they have not lost two in a row since Boxing Day.
For all of their fine form since then, the gap to leaders Liverpool remains at five points and could even grow to eight by the time this match gets underway, with Jurgen Klopp’s side in action against Sheffield United in today’s early kickoff.
There is perhaps a glimmer of hope for Everton, then, particularly considering they have won 10 home Premier League matches against the defending champions in the past – only Liverpool have won more in the competition’s history.
This is an Everton side in poor form, though, languishing 14th in the table after back-to-back defeats at the hands of Bournemouth and Sheffield United.
Indeed, it is now three losses in four league games for a side many tipped to push for a top-six spot this season, piling the pressure on the shoulders of Silva following some extravagant spending.
Losing to Man City is unlikely to be enough to tip the board over the edge – assuming another 8-0 hammering is not on the horizon – but last weekend’s defeat to Sheffield United certainly pushed him closer to the exit door and will have damaged their confidence hugely too.
All of their disappointment had come on the road prior to that result, with Everton having won six in a row at home, going unbeaten in seven and keeping six clean sheets during a run which included triumphs over Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United – not to mention being the last team to take league points off Liverpool.
Sheffield United’s smash-and-grab 2-0 triumph at Goodison was Everton’s first loss in front of their own fans since Man City’s last visit in February and will leave many fearing the worst as the champions come to town again.
The Toffees did at least return to winning ways against United’s Steel City neighbours Sheffield Wednesday in midweek, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin getting both goals in a 2-0 triumph at Hillsborough.
While the prospect of a first trophy since 1995 will always be appealing to the club, for now it is their league form that they need to sort out, and a heavy defeat this weekend would only raise more questions as to the future of Silva.