If there was a football equivalent of the Bogeyman then Everton are it as far as Manchester City are concerned!
As City fortunes have risen in recent years, especially under Roberto Mancini, the Sky Blues have slain many an ‘enemy’ turning the tables on the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs and of course Stretford Rangers, with wonderful regularity.
But still the nightmares endure against David Moyes’ side. City have lost eight of the last 10 Premier League encounters albeit, they did achieve a hard fought 2-0 victory at the Etihad in September last year.
Go back all the way to December 20 in 2010 and you have City’s last home PL defeat before embarking on their amazing 36 match unbeaten streak. No prizes for guessing it was those irritating Toffees who stuck in City’s craw, edging the home side 2-1 in arctic conditions.
So, in terms of football ‘gore’ Everton are to City, what Jason, the knife-wielding, hockey mask wearing psycho in the Friday 13th horror movies, was to his victims.
They just keep coming back for more and the ‘good guys’ can never quite see them off.
As far as scary characters go in the PL, there’s none more so than Marouane Fellaini, Everton’s afro-haired midfield strongman who, not only intimidates his opponents, he can also deliver the killer touch in front of goal.
Everton return to the ‘scene of the crime’ from 2010 when they seek to end City’s proud sequence of invincibility at Fortress Etihad. Perennial slow starters, Moyes’ men have been quick out of the traps this season, lying sixth in the PL with just two defeats in 14 games.
The animosity between the two clubs, their firebrand managers and fans is palpable, intensified by a bitter transfer wrangle when Joleon Lescott made his £24m switch from Goodison, when Mark Hughes was the City boss.
You have to go all the way back to May 2004 since City last gave the blue side of Liverpool a good going over. Kevin Keegan’s charges racked up a 5-1 win with the Merseysiders featuring a young Shrek – sorry Wayne Rooney – in their line up. (Movie themes on the brain!)
There’s absolutely no expectation of such an outcome this time out. Given what’s gone before, City fans will happily embrace a fluke 1-0 win if that’s what it takes to wrest three points off this most formidable of foes.
Sitting one off the top in the PL and 10 points clear of Everton, City will have to step up their performances of recent weeks, particularly up front.
Mario Balotelli’s first PL goal of the season at Wigan in midweek should see him retain his place, and it would be no surprise to see combative Carlos Tevez start against the physically challenging Everton XI.
City’s Ivorian colossus Yaya Toure would seem the obvious choice to counter Fellaini’s midfield might and this could be the key to a City win.
Nikica Jelavic presents a danger to City’s vastly improved defensive unit – now once again established as the best in the PL. It could fall to Croat, Jelavic’s ‘Balkan brother‘,City’s emerging Serbian defender Matija Nastasic to keep him quiet and help Joe Hart keep his seventh clean sheet of the campaign.
Everton’s historic supremacy in this fixture casts a massive shadow over City’s 20 match unbeaten run in the PL, as well as that phenomenal home run of 33 wins in 36 undefeated contests.
The loss of midweek goal hero James Milner to a troublesome hamstring is a real blow because the City hard man would have been a certainty to play. Richards, Clichy and ex- Evertonian Rodwell are all ruled out with Lescott only likely to make the bench.
City fans must hope that the belief that carried their side to that memorable PL crown, will help turn a living nightmare into dreamland and banish the Everton curse once and for all.