After a week of much wailing and gnashing of teeth for those connected with the blue half of Merseyside, it’s back into the fray for David Moyes and his Everton side as Manchester City roll into town for Saturday’s Premier League encounter at Goodison Park.
The Toffees’ capitulation at home to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup has been proceeded by much recrimination and analysis as fans and pundits have debated where Everton are going, both for the rest of this season and beyond as speculation increases around the manager’s future.
They say the best course of action if you fall off a bike is to get back on as soon as possible, and in Everton’s case last weekend’s tumble from grace is followed by the stiff task of facing last season’s champions.
Roberto Mancini’s side have struggled all year to match the blistering form they displayed for most of the last campaign and go into the final stages of this one staring into the distance at the backs of neighbours Manchester United as they disappear over the horizon in the title race.
Mancini, whose own FA Cup tale goes on after their 5-0 thrashing of Barnsley, will surely have to learn from his past mistakes when preparing his side to face the Blues at Goodison. His record with City against Moyes’ Everton is terrible, having taken only 4 points from a possible 21 in Premier League clashes. Last season’s defeat in the corresponding fixture tied the Italian in mental knots as anyone who saw his post-match interview apology will testify to.
With such statistics going against Mancini, it does seem the Scotsman has some sort of tactical hold over his rival and Moyes will undoubtedly require more of the same from himself and his players to make up for the disastrous Wigan performance.
Everton were totally outplayed and out-thought by Roberto Martinez’ team and far too many men in blue failed to show their true form when they needed it the most. Stars such as Steven Pienaar and England call-ups Leon Osman and Leighton Baines, gave the ball away uncharacteristically often and the talismanic Marouane Fellaini strolled around the pitch in a daze before finally flouncing off the field in a huff after his deserved substitution.
Moyes has had his players on lockdown in the week since in preparation for Manchester City and the scale of the task facing Everton as they attempt to get back on track could scarcely be tougher but this should focus the minds of the squad that they have much making up to do in the eyes of the Goodison faithful.
A win is vital to the Toffees’ European aspirations. The fourth place they coveted now seems to have slipped through their fingers, and with failure in the FA Cup their chance to make it into next year’s Europa League has also become slimmer, as they now battle it out for fifth place alongside Arsenal and Liverpool, who leap-frogged Everton in the table to compound last weekend’s misery further.
With the wounds from the Wigan fiasco still raw, expect to see a reaction from Moyes and his players who will be going all-out to restore some pride in themselves and for the supporters. It would be typical Everton if they produce their best display of the season one week too late.
Jan Mucha continues to deputise in goal for the injured Tim Howard, while Johnny Heitinga will probably remain in the heart of the defence as Phil Jagielka is still struggling with an ankle problem.
Roberto Mancini is sweating on the fitness of captain Vincent Kompany who has missed several games, and Sergio Aguero who has a knee problem. The notoriously brittle Jack Rodwell misses out on a return to his former club due to his glass hamstring.