REJUVENATED Everton travel to Manchester City on New Year's Day. Jack Lambden (@_JackL_) analyses the encounter.
Manchester City v Everton | Wednesday 1st January 2020 2019, 17:30 | BT Sport
That Manchester City fans have ended the decade in despondent mood considering all that the club has achieved in the past 10 years, with 13 domestic trophies to their name (which includes four Premier League titles) perhaps indicates how miserly the defence of their latest league triumph has been.
A rather flat performance by the City players in the victory over Sheffield United seemed reflective of Pep Guardiola’s recognition that there is simply no catching the runaway train that is Liverpool. Had it not been for another marginal VAR decision, City could have been facing a second defeat in as many days but ultimately overcame Chris Wilder’s men with two second half strikes.
There’s no doubt that the Citizens squad still contains an array of talent but the failure to bring in defensive reinforcements in the summer has proved costly and resulted in only seven clean sheets in 20 league games. The constant rotation in the backline, particularly in the full-back positions, is never going to lead to any form of consistency or partnership which is crucial to keeping the goals out.
Everton meanwhile have continued the positive run of form they established under interim manager Duncan Ferguson with back-to-back wins since Carlo Ancelotti’s arrival. It appears that the Italian is going to be backed in the transfer window with big name players such as Adrian Rabiot and James Rodriguez linked with moves to the club but the core of the Toffees’ squad does not need too much tinkering.
The man that has impressed the most since Marco Silva’s departure is striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin who now has five goals in five games including a match winning brace at Newcastle. Not only is the young striker bagging goals which will delight a fair few Fantasy League players but his all round game has come on leaps and bounds.
Ancelotti has worked with some top quality number nines during his career Everton and the Sheffield born forward can certainly be another beneficiary of the coaching experience that ‘Carletto’ can bring to Goodison Park.
A big reason that Calvert-Lewin is scoring more is, quite simply, that he’s shooting more often. In the five games I mentioned, he has registered 20 shots. That compares to 15 shots in his 13 previous appearances which shows just how much the 22-year-old is growing in confidence.
Given these numbers and how often he is hitting the net currently, I like the look of the striker to have 1 or more shot on target with SkyBet, priced at 6/5.
Sheffield United recorded eight shots at the Etihad which would certainly raise a few eyebrows in previous seasons but in this campaign it has become something of the norm for Ederson or Caludio Bravo to be rather busy. Lys Mousset hit four shots in that very game so I can see no reason that Calvert-Lewin can’t register a similar amount and hit the target with at least one of them, particularly as he managed to get on the scoresheet in the reverse game in September.
A big Bet Builder to consider
Ultimately, despite City’s frailties, this will be a much tougher test for Ancelotti and co than his first two games in charge against Burnley and Newcastle. The home side have conceded the majority of their goals on their travels this season and with Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero all fit, they should have too much firepower for the Merseysiders.
Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines are the only players remaining in this Everton squad who featured for the last Everton team to win at the Eithad back in December 2010.
On the corners front, City average over 10 per-home-game alone which is hardly a surprise considering how much they dominate but Sheffield United racked up five of their own on matchweek 20 which gives me confidence backing Everton to gain a smaller number.
Everton average six corners per away game and with a good amount of play going through wing-backs Sidibie and Digne, crosses and ultimately a few corners could follow.
The card selections boost the odds nicely on two sides that aren’t afraid to get stuck into a tackle and with cards seemingly flowing over this festive period, it shouldn’t be too much to ask for both sides to pick up one apiece to help us land the combination bet.