Here we are then game two of three in January against Manchester City. The record currently stands at W1-D0-L0, wouldn’t it be great to stop here? With a Capital One Cup final to look forward to?
No, of course not. Two wins in their own back yard could really kick start our season.
The First Game
OK so I never got round to writing a match report from the League Cup game, partly due to work commitments but mainly sue to writing a full match review being quite time consuming and getting back into writing a lot is quite hard. Never mind, we can cover it briefly here.
My thoughts coming away from Goodison last Wednesday where very positive. Apart from the first twenty minutes of the game and one counter attack we limited City to very little. Gareth Barry took home the Man of the Match award from BT Sports but I think everyone else in the ground would have given it to Mo Besic. The spunky Bosnian seemed to be everywhere showing both steel in the challenge and silk in some of the skill and passes made. It really was the complete midfield performance.
Besic has spoken in the week since about why Everton fans love him and you only need to look at the above paragraph to find out. We love a challenge here, but also a player who can split defences with slide-rule passes. Besic can do both.
Anyway, back to the game. After 20 minutes, when City might have been ahead from a back post header we started to gain control of the game, with Barry and Besic growing in stature in the middle. This allowed the likes of Barkley to move forward more.
Everton had two goals correctly ruled out for offside before eventually making the breakthrough on the stroke of half time. Funes Mori scoring his first home goal after pouncing on a save by Caballero from a Barkley strike.
Thus it remained 1-0 until City hit us on the break, with Aguero finding Navas free to pass the ball past Robles.
Interesting stat by the way: Everton are unbeaten in the last 12 games where Joel Robles has started (excluding penalty shootouts).
The lead didn’t last long though, indeed just two minutes later Lukaku scored his 12th goal in 12 games with a back post header from a sweet Gareth Barry cross.
The game ended with this score to give the Blues a slender lead into the second leg on 27th January.
We can’t move on without mentioning the new found game control shown by Everton after going down to 10 men when we lost Coleman through injury.
We stroked the ball around perfectly for what seemed like 10 minutes, without giving City a sniff. If only we could have done this in a few games this season. Bournemouth anyone?
Phew, see even a short review took around 300 words!
One negative for the first game was the three injuries we received, two of which seem like they will keep Coleman and Cleverley out for a number of matches. Luckily the third, Lukaku, only missed the FA Cup game at the weekend and will return tonight.
Despite Kone scoring the first against Dagenham & Redbridge losing Lukaku for this game or any period of time could have been disastrous for our targets for the season. Rom has been in electric form topping the Premier League goal scoring charts, and as I mentioned above has scored 12 in his last 12 in all comps.
So Rom will return to the side, as will Phil Jagielka who made it through the FA Cup tie unscathed.
The questions in the side remain in goal and at right back.
The Howard Situation
The past few weeks have been tough for Tim Howard. Blamed for some mistakes that have led directly to goals, whilst good saves go uncommented. Tim has clearly lost the Everton fans support. Even the goalkeepers union did not save him from criticism from Everton Legend Neville Southall:
Great result and not a star jump in sight
— Neville Southall (@NevilleSouthall) January 6, 2016
The defence as a whole seem more calm with Robles behind them, they have more confidence to use him as a player to pass to, and panic less on set pieces.
Many feel that it is time for Martinez to make a change and allow Robles to come in and stake a claim for number 1 spot. Given his recent press conferences though don’t bet against Howard coming straight back into the team tonight.
Seamus Coleman is definitely out tonight, but who will take his place at right back? There are a number of options.
John has played at right back before in his career, but I am sure we all remember the Anfield performance. Surely Stones would be best left in the middle with Jagielka, although the height advantage of three centre backs in the back four could be an advantage.
If this happens we see the back four as Baines, Mori, Jagielka, Stones.
Oviedo covered at right back in the cup at the weekend and looked decent (taking into account the opposition). Having a left footer putting in crosses from the right can be used to devastating effect too (see Real Madrid).
Pennington came on against Dag & Red and again did well, also taking into account the fact that they offered very little coming forward.
I would expect a more established player to play instead of Pennington, who could make the bench.
Probably the least likely but Phil has played everywhere on the pitch including in goal. Given his recent injury however Martinez is not likely to want to have him bombing up and down the right wing all night.
Kompany remains out, along with Bony, Mangala, Fernandinho and Nasri. However Silva and Yaya Toure return from being rested in the FA Cup. Hart will return in goal too.
Everton will hope to expose the lack of pace of Demichelis in the defensive positions.
Hart, Clichy, Demichelis, Otamendi, Sagna, Fernando, Toure, De Bruyne, Silva, Sterling, Aguero
Howard, Baines, Jagielka, Stones, Oviedo, Barry, Besic, Barkley, Mirallas, Deulofeu, Lukaku
Roger East, who has shown no red cards and 34 yellow cards in 11 matches this season. East is one of the more reserved referees in the league when it comes to showing cards.
I can see us sitting back and soaking up as much of City’s possession as possible before growing into the game, as we did last week. City are great in possesion of the ball but are very sideways, and not much penetration. If we can soak this up and draw then out more then we can hit them in the break.
That being said this is, in my opinion going to be a tight game. My bet would be City 1-2 Everton.
Come on You Blues!