A day after Liverpool put one foot in the Capital One Cup final with a 1-0 victory at Stoke City, their Merseyside rivals Everton will attempt to do likewise when they host Manchester City in the first leg of their semifinal. In the midst of what has been a season of some frustration, the matchup presents a chance for Everton to move within touching distance of a first trophy in 21 years.
There has been much to admire about Roberto Martinez’s Everton this campaign. The young attacking talents of Romelu Lukaku, Gerard Deulofeu and Ross Barkley have all provided brilliant moments. Yet, despite a wide open Premier League that has offered opportunities for clubs to upset the hierarchy, Everton find themselves down in 11th place. Much of that has been down to a laxness without the ball that has often cost points, particularly late in games. Still, with Everton having scored in their last 13 matches in all competitions, and with their opponents boasting some of the world’s finest forward players, Martinez is expecting an exciting contest at Goodison Park.
“City are the top goalscorers, they bring a threat from all over the pitch and they have a winning mentality,” he said in his pre-match press conference. “They have won trophies, spent a lot of money over the years and have been working on doing well in the Champions League.
“But it is the type of test that we are looking forward to. We have enjoyed getting to this point of the competition, and now we have to face the favorites. We are looking forward to it.
“They have scored the biggest amount of goals in the league, but we have scored the most from open play. So I think it will be a very interesting game.”
Manchester City have plenty of recent experience of winning trophies, including lifting the League Cup just two years ago. And Manuel Pellegrini and his side could be forgiven for taking some of their focus off the competition this season, however, given that they are still competing on four fronts.
Just three points off the top of the Premier League after a come-from-behind win over Watford on Saturday, safely in the last 16 of the Champions League and with their FA Cup campaign getting underway this weekend, City have much to look forward to. But Pellegrini, whose future has been subjected to further scrutiny this week after Pep Guardiola confirmed he wanted to manage in the Premier League, is refusing to get too carried away.
“It’s very important to try and go game by game,” he said on Tuesday. “First we must beat Everton, to think about the first title. After that we must start the fa cup in the best way and when we return to the Premier League next week, against Everton, we must try to add the most about of points we can to try and win the title. The mentality is to try and win all.
Maybe it’s impossible to win all of them but your mentality, your attitude and desire is to have that winning mentality and you must believe you can.”
Both teams are likely to make a change in goal, with their backups having taken the field throughout their run to the Capital One Cup semifinals. For City, that would mean Willy Caballero replacing Joe Hart, while for Everton, Joel Robles taking the place of Tim Howard. With a strong squad at their disposal, City could make further alteration to their lineup, although Wilfried Bony is unavailable. Martinez, meanwhile, has confirmed that captain Phil Jagielka is still not fit to start after injury.
Prediction: Everton 2-2 Manchester City
Kickoff time: 3 p.m. EST
TV Channel: beIN Sports
Live Stream: beIN Sports Connect