Antolin Alcaraz is fit for inclusion in the squad after recovering from a shoulder injury
The Blues have lost just once in their last 10 games but have registered only three wins in their last seven Premier League games and failed to retain vital leads at White Hart Lane last Sunday and at home against Hull on Wednesday. After a rocky start to the Premier League campaign, Everton are still not near the kind of form that will carry them into the Champions League via the top four this season, leaving Roberto Martinez under what is arguably the greatest pressure he has felt in his tenure at Goodison Park so far to get his team performing.
A trip to the home of the reignin Champions, Manchester City, is not the kind of fixture you'd want under those circumstances, particularly as Manuel Pellegrini's men seem to have shaken off some patchy form of their own. Since picking up just one win six in all competitions between mid-October and mid-November, the Citizens have won four straight, including a remarkable turn-around against Bayern Munich in the Champions League where they won 3-2 to keep their hopes of qualification to the knockout round alive.
At the heart of their revival has been the scintiliating form of Sergio Aguero who has five goals in those last four games and already has 19 to his credit in all competitions this season. With Luis Suarez having deserted Anfield, the Argentine is unquestionably the Premier League's most dangerous striker and shackling him and shutting down the supply lines should be Everton's primary goal this weekend.
Martinez's best man for that particular job, James McCarthy, is highly unlikely to be available, though. The Irishman is continuing his rehabilitation from a recurrent hamstring problem and will sit out a third successive game but he has been deputised ably by Muhamed Besic who, while not as tenacious as McCarthy, has been demonstrating just why his manager made him a top transfer target over the summer. The Bosnian is visibly warming to life in the Premier League and was one of the few bright spots in the frustrating midweek draw against Hull.
He will partner Gareth Barry again, with the veteran midfielder now able to play against his old club after being ineligible to face them last season while he was on loan from the Etihad Stadium. Barry made an unexpectedly quick recovery from an ankle injury to return against Tottenham and also came through 90 minutes on Wednesday, albeit with some lingering rustiness.
Martinez has been further boosted by another early return to training in the form of Antolin Alcaraz. The Paraguayan was forced off with the injury half an hour into last month's draw at Swansea City but, after initial fears that he may need surgery were allayed, he returned to training a week ahead of schedule. He could come in to replace Sylvain Distin who, 10 days short of his 37th birthday, may find a fourth game in 9 days too much to handle.
While Alcaraz will boost the numbers available to Roberto Martinez, the manager told the media at his pre-match press conference that he will almost certainly be without Steven Naismith and Darron Gibson. Gibson suffered a setback on his return from a long-term knee injury playing for the Republic of Ireland in the middle of November and has had to face more time on the sidelines while Naismith is nursing a hamstring strain.
Steven Pienaar has been declared fully fit by Martinez, however. The South African made a disappointingly ineffective cameo as a substitute against Hull, something that has, unfortunately, been a theme for him for much of 2014 due to a succession of minor injuries that have prevented him from establishing any kind of rhythm. On his day, he could provide much of the creativity that has been lacking from the Blues' League performances of late, particularly if he can rediscover some of that magical understanding with Leighton Baines down the left flank.
Given how successful Everton have been in the Europa League this season where the likes of Kevin Mirallas and Romelu Lukaku have reveled in greater space than against more entrenched English defences, they may find the Etihad Stadium more accommodating for their expansive passing game. If Martinez can rouse his players out of any depression following two poor results and get his team humming again as an attacking force, they could cause City problems, particularly if the shaky Eliaquim Mangala plays, even alongside Vincent Kompany who is doubtful with a hamstring injury.
The likes of Stoke and CSKA Moscow, who have beaten Pellegrini's side on their turf this season, and QPR, who held them to a 2-2 draw at Loftus Road, have shown that City can be vulnerable when teams have a go at them. Obviously keeping the back door closed to threats like Aguero, Jesus Navas and
Silva Yaya Touré will be paramount so balancing defence and attack will be key to Everton's chances.
Evertonians go into this match at a low ebb, though, struck by an a dreaded feeling of deja vu at what appears at the moment to be another false dawn. It not be that way but the manager certainly faces a big task now if another tilt at the top four is going to materialise. Score a surprise victory in this one and the Hull display would be more readily forgotten but a creditable draw would be a good start with another should-win game looming when QPR come to Goodison on Monday week.
Kick off: 5.30pm
Referee: Andre Marriner
Full coverage: ToffeeWeb Match Reports
Reader Comments (101)
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1 Posted 05/12/2014 at 19:25:26
2 Posted 05/12/2014 at 19:26:00
Hope the team selection includes Eto’o in the starting lineup (he didn’t feature at all in the last game).
We’ve got to figure Man City will score, so it’s up to the Blues to play on the front foot and score too.
3 Posted 05/12/2014 at 19:57:57
4 Posted 05/12/2014 at 19:59:36
5 Posted 05/12/2014 at 20:00:57
Together with Barry, Jaglieka, Osman and Hibbert, we probably have some of the slowest moving players in the league. Is it any wonder we keep moving the ball sideways and back. None of them would be able to catch up to a forward through ball.
I’m hoping for the best tomorrow, but something tells me that we’re in for a hiding.
6 Posted 05/12/2014 at 20:19:07
I’m pretty confident about tomorrow.
8 Posted 05/12/2014 at 20:21:42
Colin, he beat them in the FA Cup Final against all the odds. It’s a funny old game.
9 Posted 05/12/2014 at 20:15:39
I would play:
Coleman Jagielka Distin Baines
McGeady Eto’o Mirallas
10 Posted 05/12/2014 at 20:25:21
"Of course we want to win every game but I’m more focused on the effort, approach and mentality of players towards winning those games because we need to be as good as we can until the final third of the season.
"Then it’s all about the amount of points we get and where we end up."
I believe that a manager should look no further ahead than the next match Â– I’m not saying don’t have a long-term plan for the club but, as far as fixtures are concerned, the only game that matters is the upcoming one.
The other thing that bothers me about this statement is that suddenly what has previously been the second-half of the season, has suddenly altered into the last third of the season. If we don’t pick enough points up in the first half or two-thirds of the campaign, it is likely that the remainder of the season will be largely academic.
11 Posted 05/12/2014 at 20:32:04
12 Posted 05/12/2014 at 20:25:08
13 Posted 05/12/2014 at 20:34:19
14 Posted 05/12/2014 at 20:45:46
Yes, better than the last formation.
15 Posted 05/12/2014 at 20:43:41
16 Posted 05/12/2014 at 20:44:04
However, the loss of tireless Naismith and Ironman McCarthy may be too big a loss in this fixture. A midfield of Besic, Barry, Osman and Barkley or Pienaar just won’t be strong enough to stop Man City.
They should have been strong enough to beat bottom feeders Hull, and they weren’t, which unfortunately is a bad form line.
17 Posted 05/12/2014 at 20:45:58
Browning or Hibbert
18 Posted 05/12/2014 at 20:56:51
Man City are "huge". On another day, your team would be fine, but no defensive midfielder and lack of height spells disaster
19 Posted 05/12/2014 at 20:58:44
Anyway, whatever team we play tomorrow, I’m sure Tony Hibbert should start with Coleman playing in front of him.
20 Posted 05/12/2014 at 21:23:35
That zero you have in the win column represents a trophy-winning game... or does that not count as a win?
21 Posted 05/12/2014 at 21:18:17
Colin, as bad as we have been in the last two games, Roberto’s record was with Wigan and although clearly poor, you would expect a win record of only about 15% if lucky, given their resources.
The call for Distin to keep his place due to pace is absurd as unfortunately he’s finished and its painful watching a great servant performing this way. Alcaraz should go straight into the team as even if he gets nailed tomorrow by Aguero the 90 minutes will help him and us for the upcoming more winnable fixtures.
I would like Roberto to come up with something different tomorrow as in the last two games he has started Mirallas and we have only had McGeady on the bench to win us the game as he didn’t use Eto’o for some reason.
I would start Barkley, Eto’o and Kevin on the bench and start McGeady, Ossie and Pienaar and try and stay in the game until half time. Then perhaps go braver in the second half as its more important for Kevin to be flying at the end of the game than the start.
22 Posted 05/12/2014 at 21:12:55
Any more of this inane, so called "build up" stuff at the back that gets "the passing game" a bad name against talented quick players such as Aguero etc and it could get embarrassing. Anything less than blindingly obvious total applied commitment for the full game and the frustrations expressed against Hull may start to become embedded.
24 Posted 05/12/2014 at 21:42:38
Just remembered he signed for Boro Â– I forgot coz he’s done fuck all so far!
Maybe we can get him on the cheap?
25 Posted 05/12/2014 at 21:44:38
I wouldn’t put Robles in the reserves let alone the first team.
IMO we need to beef up the midfield.
I would throw Garbutt in and play Baines, Besic and Barry in midfield with Mirallas, Barkley and Lukaku up front.
26 Posted 05/12/2014 at 21:52:04
Howard and Distin are finished for me, roll on the transfer window.
27 Posted 05/12/2014 at 22:00:16
Coleman Jagelika Distin Baines
Mirralas Besic Barry Pienaar
Try an old fashioned 4-4-2.
28 Posted 05/12/2014 at 22:01:34
They way they destroyed Southampton with ten men was frightening, so, unless we can shackle Aguero and Toure especially, we are in for it.
Even if, by some chance, we go in front, we will simply sit back and await the inevitable as we have done so many times this season but hope springs eternal with Evertonians (even from 3,500 miles away).
29 Posted 05/12/2014 at 22:09:52
30 Posted 05/12/2014 at 22:25:43
Howard if fit
I would like to see Mirallas just off the striker as he has a bit of pace to maybe get beyond Lukaku and trouble Demichilis.
31 Posted 05/12/2014 at 22:29:01
Don’t try and outpass them, run at them!
32 Posted 05/12/2014 at 22:13:59
Yes, I’m being absurd for wanting to get a positive result out of this fixture.
33 Posted 05/12/2014 at 22:49:49
You’re right about Silva and it doesn’t look as though Kompany will be fit either. I usually go by the BBC preview for team news info and they didn’t mention either player so I blame them!
34 Posted 05/12/2014 at 22:56:47
35 Posted 05/12/2014 at 22:42:57
First point is that Mirallas is probably my favourite player and I was slated for defending him this time last year when most Toffees were calling him arrogant, selfish and just a show pony.
We have gone with a strong team in the last 2 games and when the points began getting away from us we had no option to win the match. Roberto is clearly trying to manage Kevin so he doesn’t aggravate his injury and I just feel we need alternatives from the bench.
Last season Roberto started with players who I wouldn’t have and had impact subs like Naismith and Delboy who helped win games we may have drawn.
Alcaraz has only missed about 3 weeks so if his shoulder is fine then he shouldn’t be too much off the pace and our chances of winning this game are much better with him than with Distin. Not only is his confidence and most of his ability gone but against Aluko it now seems like his brain has also. Barry was in support and Aluko was always going to go down the line to get it onto his right foot but this somehow fooled Sylvan. Can you imagine what a two footed player like Aguero will do to him where its nearly impossible to know which way he will go and with what foot.
I’m not sure if any of our centre backs can contain Aguero but playing Alcaraz wont damage us anymore than Distin would have and will help us for the QPR game. Your suggestion of Kone and Oviedo are obviously foolish as are long term injuries and totally different to the suggestion of Alcaraz who was in fine form before his shoulder injury. Pienaar has been on the bench for the last two games so he must be close to fitness but I wouldn’t mind if he started Baines ahead of Garbutt instead.
I just feel we may be best packing the midfield, keeping it tight and trying to control possession and then having a bit of flair and goal threat to come from the bench as we gain confidence.
36 Posted 05/12/2014 at 23:34:36
37 Posted 06/12/2014 at 00:14:30
Do you think Besic has the skill to wreck Aguero and avoid a red? I certainly hope so!
38 Posted 05/12/2014 at 23:51:54
39 Posted 06/12/2014 at 00:10:16
40 Posted 06/12/2014 at 01:04:23
C’mon Roberto, this game cries out for a Moyesian approach. Defend as a team, absorb the pressure and hit em on the break. It’s not as if Everton have had a hard time of it against them these last several years. And have Mo mark Toure Word Cup style.
However, do NOT tell Besic to "wreck" Aguero. Mo’s to valuable to use as a some goon.
41 Posted 06/12/2014 at 02:20:32
I know itÂs blasphemy but Baines needs to be dropped. Yep, peeps will say Barry will give us needed physical strength in the middle but he has been so awful, he canÂt be let loose to make yet more mistakes ......
Howard (I blame you Martinez you have failed to address this situation) - Browning - Jagielka - Distin (sort it out) - Garbutt (Oveido?) - Besic - Osman - Mirallas (our hope) - Coleman - EtoÂo - Lukaku
Quite frankly, there are positions where, either through MartinezÂs choices or injuries, players will start who in an ideal world would not be in the starting eleven.
Bobby! Plan B! We canÂt always just pass it around at the back! I am still struggling to forgive you and Howard for minute 95.11 on Wednesday when the keeper who must be replaced had the ball in his hands with seconds counting down and did he hoof it up the pitch in a lottery Hail Mary as just about every other keeper /team wold have done? No! He gently threw the ball to a central defender.
God help us one and all 11:30/5:30 tomorrow... Make me look like a fool Martinez and be the Bobby I love and still totally support.
42 Posted 06/12/2014 at 03:46:00
Coleman Jagielka Distin Baines
McGeady Eto’o Mirallas
I sense that McGeady will work his ass off, not to mention Mirallas, our main player in the last few games which will only help Lukaku and Eto’o will love to show off his skills against a Champions League club, same with Besic as he enjoyed the World Cup in the big arenas.
They will inspire each other, do I remember not just a few say they can show up against any opposition on their day? If Martinez takes good care of the right substitutions, and if the players are up for it, which I am sure of they are since it’s against Man City (Remember Mancini days? I loved it! The lads haven’t forgotten it either!)
44 Posted 06/12/2014 at 03:45:51
Lukaku is coming into fine form, Barkley is due to have his headline grabbing game (why not today?), Mirallas is on fire, Coleman and Baines if they play as we know they are capable of playing can cause them all kinds of problems, maverick McGeady, the energetic Besic, experienced Barry, all good players.
The concerns are the back 3 and I would say let us put Hibbert in at CB Â– he did a fine job there in the game against Man City a couple of seasons ago.
I like Jay Harris’s 4-3-3 formation:
Coleman Jagielka Hibbert Garbutt
Besic Barry Baines
Mirallas Lukaku Barkley
With Osman, Oviedo, Alcaraz, Eto’o, Pienaar, McGeady, Robles as subs.
COYB, we can win this!
45 Posted 06/12/2014 at 06:31:07
I like your lineup! Although I do believe if Alcaraz is available, RM will select him. I think Barry should play deep, just in front of CBs. He would be defensive cover, plus he would be a ready outlet. Might help eliminate the need to "hoof" it.
I like the idea of Baines in the middle. Thought it was a good idea earlier in the season. I think itÂs a better one now. It might be the spark we need to get things moving again.
The experts say we donÂt have a hope in hell. What better place to experiment a bit. Who knows; we may surprise ManCity and the experts.
46 Posted 06/12/2014 at 06:51:15
47 Posted 06/12/2014 at 07:53:48
50 Posted 06/12/2014 at 08:46:15
Yes we are undoubtedly the underdogs I accept that. But we were against Arsenal for both games last season, and against Man Utd......
A season changing game I am hoping especially after the Hull game (Which lost me on my Acca!)
BESIC is quickly growing into a v v good premier league player and I think this kind of stage will suit him. Both he and Barkley will thrive on today’s big stage game and I genuinely have a good feeling about this today.
I would start as follows:
Coleman. Jags. Distin. Baines
MIRALLAS. Barkley. MCGEADY
I would give Barkley a rocket up him before the game and demand he works tirelessly today.
I have a feeling on a 3-1 victory for the blues today with BESIC to score his first goal for the blues.
Colin Glasser..... Are you going to have a game of premier league predictions with me this week?
Think positive today boys...
51 Posted 06/12/2014 at 09:24:33
Best thing to avoid that mate, is to stay awake!
How did you manage to type your post if you’re asleep? Hmmmm. :-)
52 Posted 06/12/2014 at 09:26:36
53 Posted 06/12/2014 at 09:50:32
This is a nail biter and a clean sheet would be a triumph. As for a win, I’d get pissed.
54 Posted 06/12/2014 at 09:49:22
55 Posted 06/12/2014 at 10:11:14
56 Posted 06/12/2014 at 09:54:20
We have too many players not performing or who are reaching that tipping point when they can’t reach those peak levels of performance, eg, Hibbert, Howard, Distin & Osman...
Howard should’ve been benched after the Man Utd game and it has cost us; just how many more mistakes is he allowed to make before RM wakes up and gives him a rest?
Talking of RM, his decisions and tactics are becoming more bizarre Â– I could not understand taking Mirallas off the other night!
If we do lose tonight, we will be not too far off the relegation zone!! Crisis?? Not yet... but, like our football of late, a slow laborious slide down the table is very much a possibility if we don’t start to turn things around and stop throwing games away from winning positions!!
I will watch the game tonight but I am afraid we are in for a bit of a hiding.
57 Posted 06/12/2014 at 11:34:56
58 Posted 06/12/2014 at 11:41:07
Neil W, we win 1-2. HowÂs that for starters?
My team would be:
Joel (Robles is crap)
Subs: Howard, Coleman, Distin, Pienaar, Osman, EtoÂo, McAleny.
59 Posted 06/12/2014 at 11:53:24
60 Posted 06/12/2014 at 11:54:20
And not forgetting Martinez is a manager who has actually won a trophy.
61 Posted 06/12/2014 at 11:40:08
RobertoÂs made himself a real problem at the back as I donÂt think these 4 will have the puff to hold back city for 90 minutes. IÂd be tempted to play Hibbert at RB and Alcaraz at CB.
The midfield will really have to put a shift in for us to have a chance. Mirallas and McGeady to start on the wings for me with Barkley to start in the middle. Save EtoÂo for that 2nd half. Barry and Besic in the middle at CM.
ItÂs going to be a long afternoon...
62 Posted 06/12/2014 at 12:11:02
63 Posted 06/12/2014 at 11:54:59
He has had a great understanding with Baines but on Wednesday he looked finished.
We are really missing Stones and McCarthy
We need a miracle
Think IÂll nip up to the Cathedral and have a word with St Anthony on my way to the Fly in the Loaf
64 Posted 06/12/2014 at 12:40:31
Just seen a horrible stat on bt sports.. Most passes completed this season fabregas, yaya and matic top 3 followed by jags. An absolute joke that is for a supposed top team! I would go with
Subs: Howard Alcaraz etoÂo Pienaar Oviedo mcaleny osman.
65 Posted 06/12/2014 at 13:07:51
66 Posted 06/12/2014 at 13:09:48
Galloway? HeÂs hardly played first team football any where. HeÂs not ready and certainly not for this match.I like him, think heÂs got quality but not yet.
67 Posted 06/12/2014 at 13:18:14
Is David Silva playing and if he is then he has to be shackled because they donÂt usually play well without him.
68 Posted 06/12/2014 at 13:29:23
69 Posted 06/12/2014 at 13:27:59
70 Posted 06/12/2014 at 13:29:06
For goodness sake wholesale changes Robles ! Galloway!, Hibbert ! Oviedo ! , you must be mad, particularly Robles and Galloway. Robles is a walkin disaster and Galloway isnÂt even setting the U21Âs alive with his performances.
I think we are all over reacting to a blip in levels, yes we know we havenÂt recahed anywhere near last year but losing key key players for months is a real issue we canÂt do much about - Mirallas, McCarthy, Naismith, Barkley, Coleman, Baines . But the kids arenÂt ready or good enough and clearly Robles has even lost Martinez faith
71 Posted 06/12/2014 at 13:40:55
72 Posted 06/12/2014 at 13:52:13
73 Posted 06/12/2014 at 13:59:41
74 Posted 06/12/2014 at 13:53:56
Colin Glasser is right in that he should blood the youngsters if they are right for the position that needs to be filled, our problem is our tactics.
If anyone remembers Wigans cup final win, they got at City by playing wide men and pounding them with crosses, Martinez appears to spur this tactic in favour of 3rd rate Barca tippy tippy shit.
For all you budding Uri Gellars, positive thinking will not make an ounce of difference to the result and IÂm shitting myself, which is why IÂve posted this as a form of aversion therapy.
75 Posted 06/12/2014 at 14:04:00
76 Posted 06/12/2014 at 14:12:13
77 Posted 06/12/2014 at 13:59:26
I will have a case of what youÂve been drinking. I assume a lot of it is tongue-in-cheek but the principle of blooding youngsters is correct.
IMO the kids need to be introduced gradually and one at a time until they get experience of the Prem under their belt. If Browning and Garbutt had been given some time earlier in the season, they would be ready now but Man City away is not the time for experimentation.
WE need the experienced pros to stand up today and avoid a slaughter. Again IMO Robles and Alcaraz would be a disaster in this game. WE need to defend as if our lives depend on it and hope to hit them on the break.
78 Posted 06/12/2014 at 14:23:02
79 Posted 06/12/2014 at 14:20:01
81 Posted 06/12/2014 at 14:37:13
Patrick, if Newcastle can upset Chelsea why canÂt we do what weÂve done quite often in the past and beat Man City?
82 Posted 06/12/2014 at 14:40:28
83 Posted 06/12/2014 at 14:42:43
84 Posted 06/12/2014 at 14:46:13
85 Posted 06/12/2014 at 14:55:19
86 Posted 06/12/2014 at 15:05:40
I have the worst type of Everton blues.
87 Posted 06/12/2014 at 15:24:33
What really is gnawing at my craw is that IÂm about to spend $100 or so taking 3 of my sons to the pub to watch the game.
The kids will enjoy it but I have this feeling that IÂm about to piss away $100 to see a disappointing performance...
Is the negativity of some posters permeating into my being?
88 Posted 06/12/2014 at 15:27:26
89 Posted 06/12/2014 at 15:28:24
If Besic doesnÂt start IÂm chucking a pint through the large screen high def TV.
91 Posted 06/12/2014 at 15:31:22
92 Posted 06/12/2014 at 15:32:44
IF we do win, whatever the lineup, I think it could be a massive boost going into the Holidays. It could turn the tide so to speak.
Which is why we watch...
93 Posted 06/12/2014 at 15:37:02
94 Posted 06/12/2014 at 15:26:21
95 Posted 06/12/2014 at 15:37:48
96 Posted 06/12/2014 at 15:41:17
The last time I met up with my boys and the two blues IÂll be watching the game with today was the Arsenal game early this season. Same pub weÂre going to today.
When Jags had that ball float over his noggin and the Arsenal player headed it home to draw level 2-2, I slammed my beer (read pint...) on the table.
The glass instantly shattered and sent beer flying everywhere. WasnÂt intentional at all, but it happened.
I felt so incredibly bad I grabbed a bar rag and mopped the entire thing up as fast as possible.
So I guess IÂm saying breaking shit if things go south isnÂt out of the question. Sophomoric for a 45 year-old father of 5 admittedly, but sometimes you just get so frustrated.
97 Posted 06/12/2014 at 15:45:32
I wish it was just about Aguerro.
When you spend 900 million assembling one of the best squads in the world and it clicks you create problems all over the pitch for opponents.
The more significant thing for me is Kompany missing. He is not just a top class defender but also a leaderr and organizer.
Without him and a couple of other key players they may be vulnerable at the back for the pace of Lukaku and Mirallas on the break.
IMO that is our only hope.
98 Posted 06/12/2014 at 15:58:25
99 Posted 06/12/2014 at 16:00:55
100 Posted 06/12/2014 at 16:09:14
101 Posted 06/12/2014 at 16:13:33
102 Posted 06/12/2014 at 16:23:11
I get a feeling we should get something out of this game but is it blind optimism.
If we get beat by an under par Spurs outfit and draw at home with relegation threatened Hull logic would say we should get batttered today.
But hey when has logic ever been able to predict football matches.
We live in hope (and prayer).
103 Posted 06/12/2014 at 16:29:55
Heard it here first!
104 Posted 06/12/2014 at 16:43:29
105 Posted 06/12/2014 at 17:04:29
106 Posted 06/12/2014 at 17:06:47
107 Posted 06/12/2014 at 17:14:48
108 Posted 06/12/2014 at 17:48:27
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