Manchester City have endured an inconsistent start to the season and will have to be at their best to take three points when they host undefeated Everton at the Etihad stadium on Saturday (12:45 BST, live on BT Sports 1).
City are seventh in the nascent Premier League table with 10 points from three wins, one draw and two defeats. They are the league’s top scorers with 14 goals, but have also conceded over a goal per match in their six fixtures to date. New manager Manuel Pellegrini is still settling in to the position and displays have vacillated between the sublime (the 4-1 derby win over United) and the substandard (3-2 defeats to Aston Villa and Cardiff). The Chilean will be aware of the need to find greater regularity in the coming weeks.
Pellegrini was given significant funding this summer, which was invested in five new players. Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas have hit the ground running, with the former scoring twice and providing two assists, but Fernandinho is still adjusting, Steven Jovetic has had limited minutes, while Martin Demichelis is injured and yet to play.
The opening day 4-0 win at home to Newcastle and the crushing victory in the Manchester derby showed the potential of Pellegrini’s side, with neat passing football and clever movement in the final third helping to carve numerous opportunities for efforts on goal. Sergio Aguero, in particular, has flourished in the early weeks of the season.
Yet City have also been uncharacteristically fragile at the back. They failed to competently defend set-pieces in the loss away to Cardiff and then conceding twice in three minutes, the second due to miscommunication between the two central defenders, to allow Aston Villa to come from 2-1 down to win 3-2 in their last league outing.
City were comprehensively outplayed in a Champions League defeat at home to Bayern Munich on Wednesday, but at least emerged from the match with no further injury problems, leaving Demichelis and Jack Rodwell as the only confirmed absentees for Saturday’s match.
Everton have made a strong start to the season under new manager Roberto Martinez and are currently fourth in the table with 12 points from three wins and three draws. They are the only remaining undefeated team but the bookies do not rate their long-term title aspirations as they can still be backed at 100/1 in the Premier League winner betting.
Martinez forged a good reputation at Wigan, working around budgetary constraints and the regular sales of star players to form a side who played attractive passing football and did, until last season, manage to remain in the top flight. Last season’s FA Cup final victory over City was the crowning glory of his reign.
The Spaniard has wasted no time in imposing his preferred style of football on his new charges. The sample size is very low, but in their six matches to date, Everton have already held a greater average share of possession (58% to 52.9%) and successfully completed a greater percentage of their passes (84.4% to 79.4%) than under David Moyes last season.
Martinez became accustomed to using the loan market during his time at Wigan and despite spending the best part of £22 million on signing three of his old players, it is his loan signings who have perhaps impressed most, with Gerard Deulofeu full of promise, Gareth Barry strong and steady in midfield and Romelo Lukaku a potent presence up front.
Lukaku scored 17 times on loan at West Bromwich Albion last season and the Chelsea-owned striker could well better that tally this time around after scoring three times in his first two appearances for Everton. He adds pace, power and directness to the side, and after scoring three times in their first four matches, Everton have scored six in two since his arrival.
Martinez does have a few injury worries coming into Saturday’s match, with Darren Gibson and Steven Pienaar likely to miss out, while speedy Belgian winger Kevin Mirallas is 50-50 after picking up a knock in the 3-2 victory over Newcastle on Monday. A groin injury continues to sideline Antolin Alcaraz.
Manchester City vs Everton Betting Tips Verdict
Last season’s equivalent fixture ended in a 1-1 draw and Everton actually have a better record than City in the last five meetings between the sides at the Etihad, recording three victories to City’s one.
The quality of City’s performances has varied so far this season and on the back of a midweek Champions League tie, Pellegrini may elect to rest a couple of his usual starters on Saturday, giving Everton further cause for confidence.
The Toffees have been impressive in their fixtures to date and certainly carry a goal threat, with Lukaku likely to make things difficult for the City defence and Mirallas, if passed fit, capable of using his blistering pace to good effect in the final third.
We expect to see an attractive match, but one that is most likely to end, like last season’s fixture, in a draw.
- Back the draw @ best odds of 10/3 with William Hill.
- City have scored at least once in each of their last 44 home matches in all competitions. Everton carry a clear goal threat, while City have been less than convincing in defence so far this season. With this in mind, back both teams to score @ best odds of 5/6 with Ladbrokes.