EVERTON v MAN CITY – City battle bogeymen

Manchester City’s meteoric rise in the domestic game has seen them neutralize many a nemesis, en-route to the pinnacle of the Premier League.

Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal are all regularly put to the sword nowadays…not so Everton.

Roberto Mancini’s men have shown themselves more than capable of taking down their top four rivals, so why is a trip down the East Lancs Road  always greeted with a sense of trepidation?

The answer is as simple as it is savage. City have a 10% win rate on the blue side of Stanley Park since returning to the top flight in 2002 – just one in 10 seasons – it’s an appalling record.

It’s as if a cloud of dour inevitability hangs over City and a gut-wrenching air of defeatism envelops the team, when facing up to David Moyes’ battle hardened troops.

Everton, on their day, are a team capable of beating the finest sides in the land with a camaraderie and taste for combat not many can match.

But, with the exception of Leighton Baines and Maruane Fellaini, City wouldn’t accommodate any of an EFC starting line-up in their first XI.

Moyes seems to have made it ‘personal’ when he comes up against City, ever since Joleon Lescott was lured away in the most acrimonious of switches from the royal to the sky blue shirt, during Mark Hughes’ ignominious managerial stint.

It’s all the more galling that the Glaswegian gargoyle masquerades as the devil’s disciple, in cahoots with old Beelzebub himself,  lurking in the Swamplands of Trafford Borough.

Moyes may share his roots with Fergie and admire the graceless knight, but it didn’t prevent him from grabbing that sensational 4-4 draw and inflicting  incalculable damage on United’s title hopes last season.

After 11 years without silverware he’s at a managerial crossroads and perhaps set to leave Everton this summer. His reluctance to sign a new contract, and all the consequent speculation, is cited as a primary reason for stuttering form in recent games.

Normally praised and lauded, Moyes is attracting more criticism than plaudits, after his side’s meek surrender to unfancied Wigan in the FA Cup.

Sadly, it’s a different story when he comes up against City. He’s lost just five of 20 PL games and, coming off the back of one of his all-time lows, he’ll want to vent his spleen against the team he loves to hate.

His teams  always raise their game against City, but the time has come for Mancini to manoeuvre his Mancunian forces and exact vengeance on a wounded adversary.

Negativity is swirling all around Everton like a dust storm – a cauldron of frustration, disappointment and uncertainty. City need to seize the moment and squeeze the footballing life from a formidable foe.

With no Vincent Kompany or Sergio Aguero, City will be minus critical elements of their battle group. Kompany will miss his eighth consecutive game and Aguero his third – the consolation being the outstanding form of centre backs Matija Nastasic and Kolo Toure along with striker Carlos Tevez.

There’ll be no reunion for the sidelined Jack Rodwell at his former club and Micah Richards and Maicon are still absent.

Everton will likely be missing keeper Tim Howard and defender Phil Jagielka – two of their most influential players. Howard’s replacement, Slovakian keeper Jan Mucha, has looked unsure in recent matches so City need to bombard his goal at every opportunity.

Moyes has previously deployed man markers on Silva to try and negate the architect of all that is good in City’s forward play. He may do so again.

Baines is a menace down the left flank, so expect to see the industrious and combative James Milner motoring up and down, tirelessly tracking his England colleague. Nullify Baines and Everton’s supply lines are severely impaired.

Nonetheless, Fellaini is a perennial danger. The mop haired marauder will be eager to restore his reputation after incurring the wrath of the Everton fans in the wretched Wigan showing. City will have to render him containable and not permit him to be unplayable.

With four wins, 12 goals scored and none conceded since their own horror show at St.Mary’s, City must maintain momentum and keep believing that United will falter.

A win at Goodison could prove irresistible in the run up to one or potentially two Manchester derbies next month. City simply have to fight ‘till the end – they could yet be handsomely rewarded.

FORZA MANCINI.

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