The Cityzens climbed back up to second in the table with a 3-1 away win over Brentford on Monday night and are now within two points of leaders Liverpool. It was their seventh straight win in all competitions since beating Fluminense 4-0 in the Club World Cup final in December.
On the other hand, the Toffees salvaged a late point in the 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park on Saturday. Sean Dyche’s side are winless in their last six league games and lie 18th in the table. Regardless of their form, they will provide a stiff test for Pep Guardiola’s Man City.
On that note, let us take a look at the key battles that could define the outcome of this game.
#Phil Foden vs Ben Godfrey & Ashley Young
Phil Foden dismantled Brentford with a sizzling hat-trick on Monday evening to take Man City within two points off leaders Liverpool. This means he now has eight goals and seven assists in 22 league appearances in what is turning out to be another excellent campaign for the England international.
The 23-year-old is in great form of late and the hat-trick against Brentford should lift his confidence further ahead of Everton’s visit to the Etihad Stadium. Given Foden’s form, Everton full-back Ben Godfrey has to be at his best to keep him at bay.
Godfrey, who went off with a small knock against Tottenham, competed very well along with Ashley Young to limit Timo Werner and Destiny Udogie’s influence last weekend. Sean Dyche could again be tempted to name Godfrey and Young in his starting XI, hoping the duo combine well to thwart Foden’s threat in Manchester.
#Kevin de Bruyne vs Amadou Onana
Kevin de Bruyne has made a spectacular comeback from injury for Man City. But while the rest of the Premier League will be hoping there’s still some rustiness to shake off, the Belgian’s return instantly has made the Cityzens a terrifying prospect. Since returning from a long-term knee injury, he completed his first 90 minutes on Monday and assisted Foden’s crucial second goal against Brentford.
De Bruyne picking up steam is ominous for the rest of the Premier League, especially Everton as they are Man City’s next opponents. Toffees boss Sean Dyche will be hoping to have Amadou Onana back this time around after he narrowly missed out against Spurs with a knee problem. With Onana in the side, Everton are a different unit altogether.
Having him back in time for the trip to City will be such a boost as the Belgium international provides energy, physicality and power to the side, as well as more control to Everton’s midfield. The combative Onana could be tasked with keeping a close eye on De Bruyne and stopping his compatriot from allowing any space and time on the ball.
Erling Haaland vs Jarrad Branthwaite
Erling Haaland started his first Man City game on Monday against Brentford after being sidelined with a foot problem since December. He threatened Brentford goalkeeper Mark Flekken a couple of times but failed to get his goal and was subbed off in the 86th minute. Having not scored since returning from injury, the Norwegian striker will be desperate to get amongst the goals against Everton on Saturday.
Thus, Jarrad Branthwaite will have his task cut out. The young Everton centre-back, who scored the equaliser against Spurs in stoppage time last weekend, is a good reader of the game, composed in possession, and forceful off the ball. Considering Haaland needs just a sniff to run in behind a defence and finish off a move, Branthwaite has to be switched on from minute one until the last to tame City’s most dangerous player.