Premier League champions Manchester City prepare to welcome high-flying Everton to the Etihad Stadium, as manager Roberto Mancini looks to build on the midweek success against Wigan Athletic. The champions are second in the table, only one point behind cross-town rivals Manchester United.
Following this match, City have another midweek game coming up - a trip to Germany to play Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund, in what is a last-ditch attempt to qualify for the Europa League; the English club have already been eliminated from the Champions League, following a poor 1-1 home draw against Spanish giants Real Madrid.
Meanwhile, Everton are having their best ever season under long-time manager David Moyes. The Scot has guided the Toffees to sixth in the table, ahead of Arsenal and local rivals Liverpool and only four points behind third-placed Chelsea. The Goodison Park club battled to a 1-1 home draw against the Gunners in their last match and face a visit from Tottenham next week.
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Roberto Mancini is coming under increasing pressure after failing to lead a star-studded and expensively assembled squad past the Champions League's group stages for the second season in a row. The barely deserved 1-1 draw, at home against Spanish champions Real Madrid was followed by a disappointingly lifeless draw at Stamford Bridge, against a Chelsea side in turmoil.
Some of the pressure was undoubtedly lifted when Italy international Mario Balotelli and England's James Milner scored to give the Citizens a two-goal win at the DW Stadium in midweek. But expect all of that pressure to come back with a vengeance, if City fail to beat Everton at the Etihad and league leaders United win at Reading to extend their lead at the top of the table.
The two Manchester clubs face off for the first time this season on 9 December, so this game and the midweek European fixture will be crucial for Mancini and his side.
Meanwhile, Everton have fallen into a bit of a slump in recent months, with probably too many draws for Moyes' liking. The Toffees' 2-1 home defeat of Sunderland aside, the club has not won a game since beating Southampton 3-1 at Goodison Park. In fact, Everton have won only five of 14 league games this season.
The good news for fans is that the side has lost only twice all season (in the league), record bettered only by their hosts for this game, who are unbeaten. United, Spurs and Arsenal have all lost more games than Everton, while Chelsea have also lost two games.
However, this run has to end at some time or the other, if Everton want to retain their European competition spot for next season. And with games against Tottenham and Chelsea still to come before the New Year, they will either have to pull something out of the bag to beat the top sides... or make their league position count and win three points off struggling teams like Wigan.
Should City be worried?
Probably not. However, Mancini would do well to remember Everton have an impressive recent record against his side, having won five of the last six games. On the flip side, City have won 29 of their last 31 home games in the Premier League. Then again, the last time City lost a home game.... it was to Everton.
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): W D D W W
- Last Match: Wigan Athletic 0 - 2 Manchester City
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): D D L W D
- Last Match: Everton 1 - 1 Arsenal
French international left back Gael Clichy (ankle) will be unavailable for this fixture and joins former Everton youngster Jack Rodwell (hamstring) and England right back Micah Richards (knee) on the injury list for Mancini. In addition, England midfielder James Milner and Clichy's compatriot Samir Nasri will both face late fitness tests.
Italy international Balotelli scored his first goal of the season at Wigan, so may retain his place in the side with top scorer Sergio Aguero. Aguero's fellow Argentinian Carlos Tevez is likely to be rested for the midweek trip to Germany. Bosnian international Edin Dzeko has been prolific for the club this season, but only from the bench, where he is likely to start.
Probable Line-Up: Hart; Maicon, Nastasic, Kompany, Kolarov; Nasri, Garcia, Y Toure, Silva; Balotelli, Aguero
Everton come into this game with rather a lengthy injury list and will particularly miss in-form left back Leighton Baines (hamstring). In addition, forward Nikica Jelavic (illness) is also a doubt, although he will take a late fitness test.
The good news is Seamus Coleman, Kevin Mirallas and Victor Anichebe could all make it in time for the trip to the Etihad but Moyes is unlikely to risk any of them unless he is absolutely sure of their match fitness. Former Manchester United defender Phil Neville is definitely ruled out until the New Year.
Probable Line-Up: Howard; Hibbert, Jagielka, Heitinga, Distin; Naismith, Gibson, Osman, Pienaar; Fellaini, Jelavic