Wednesday 27th January Kickoff: 1945hrs
Manchester City v Everton
Football – England – League Cup
With Liverpool qualified for the final of the League Cup following their win on penalties against Stoke, Manchester City and Everton have the opportunity to join them as the two face each other in the second leg of their semi-final tie at the Etihad. Will Everton’s 2-1 lead hold up?!
Having covered Manchester City games on many occasions this season, I always try to find a different angle on analysing their performances, other than inconsistent, leaky at the back and – when on form – able to score goals for fun. However, after an entertaining 2-2 draw with West Ham on Saturday, I find myself saying exactly the same thing again. Both goals conceded were as a result of very poor defending, whilst Sergio Aguero came to their rescue yet again by equalising both times. The point was enough to move them up to second place, three points behind league leaders Leicester. Constant speculation over the future of Manuel Pellegrini, and likely appointment of Pep Guardiola as manager, is obviously having an impact on performances on the park.
Despite playing lovely football at times and possessing the league’s second top goalscorer, Everton find themselves in 12th place and have won just one of their last 10 league games. Sunday’s defeat to Swansea was about as worse a performance as they have turned in, in recent months, but it was also another indication of how poor the Toffees are in defence. Ironically, one of their two clean sheets in that run of games came against free-scoring City when the two met on league business, a fortnight ago. Roberto Martinez is starting to come under scrutiny as he set his team a target of Champions League football at the start of the campaign, which looks extremely aspirational at this stage. The manager will be hoping that the change in competition will spark new life into their flagging season.
Although this is not Pellegrini’s main target this season, it would be a major surprise to see anything other than a strong team selected for the game against Everton, as it was in the first leg. The game at Goodison was one of fine margins, and was the first time that City have came up against anything like a challenge in this season’s League Cup having cruised up until the semi-final. Pellegrini and his players were also left frustrated after the goalless draw against the same opponent in the league, so they will feel they owe Everton one as they look to return to the scene of the Chilean’s first trophy won as City boss.
With Liverpool already qualified, the city of Liverpool would love nothing more than for the blue half of Merseyside emerge victorious from this game and book a mouthwatering derby at the national stadium next month. To do that, Everton know that a draw would be sufficient, but will, in all likelihood, have to score at least once to ensure their passage. Although they kept City out a couple of weeks ago, they did ride their luck and with the defensive record outside of that game, combined with the hosts attacking capabilities, it would be a surprise to see them keep another clean sheet at the Etihad.
Manchester City v Everton Betting Tips
I think there is something to be said for Everton being better equipped to play away from home, particularly against the better teams in English football. With so much pace on the counter, Martinez’ sets his team up very well to give the opposition problems when breaking. It was a massive advantage for them against Chelsea recently and it will be something that Everton should be looking to exploit more than they managed when the two teams last met.
City will still be favourites to progress to the final despite trailing from the first leg. Aguero looks to be getting his sharpness back at just the right time and he will once again be the biggest threat, and you can only admire his instincts in and around the box, as showcased against West Ham on Saturday. Surprisingly, he has not scored in any of his last four games against this opponent.
Ordinarily, I would be firmly onside with the home team in this won, considering how they match-up, but there is enough doubt to leave them alone at the current prices. City are still being priced up on their ability rather than their actual form. Everton also have a massive incentive (if they needed more) to reach their first final in an age, with the prospect of meeting Liverpool at Wembley. They will have to defend similarly to the league encounter between these two if they are to advance, though. I can’t see this game being anything else other than open and believe both teams will find the back of the net at some point during the 90 minutes. It’s a bet that would have landed in 13 of City’s last 15 home games in all competitions, whilst it would also have been a winner in eight of Everton’s last 10 away games.
Both teams to score 6/10 @ Boylesports