Ask The Opposition w/ GrandOldTeam – Everton vs Manchester City (Premier League)

Suddenly, despite the horror show at Newcastle, Manchester City have the opportunity to top the Premier League on goal difference with a win at Goodison Park – who would’ve thought it?! That’s how quickly the Premier League can change. A helping hand from former City manager Manuel Pellegrini on Monday night means the blues lie just three points behind Jurgen Klopp’s side.

Next up – a trip to Marco Silva’s Everton – a side out of form and a manager who is dividing opinion amongst the Everton faithful. On paper, we should see a City victory, especially given the opportunity presented to Guardiola’s men after the result at the London Stadium.

Ahead of this one, Freddie spoke to Andy Costigan of GrandOldTeam.com on a number of topics including Everton fans’ views on Marco Silva.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 15: Josep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City greets Marco Silva, Manager of Everton prior to the Premier League match between Manchester City and Everton FC at Etihad Stadium on December 15, 2018 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Many thanks for joining us ahead of Wednesday’s clash. Everton currently sit in 9th place in a very congested area of the Premier League table with just six points separating 7th place Wolves and 12th place West Ham. Is this the sort of position you expected Everton to be in going into the 18/19 campaign? 

If we’re honest and realistic, being ninth at this stage of the season is probably more or less where we expected to be. We wanted to be higher and on the form we showed in November, we would have been hoping for seventh or maybe sixth. Being ninth though isn’t the issue, being abjectly average and often worse than that is the issue Evertonians have with Everton at present. 

It hasn’t been the best of starts to 2019 for Everton with defeats to Leicester, Southampton and Wolves in the Premier League as well as a shock exit in the FA Cup at the hands of Millwall. What have you made of this difficult run of form for Marco Silva’s men?

Again, being honest, our form has fallen off a cliff since the ‘derby’ loss at Anfield at the beginning of December. The sheer incredulous way we conceded that goal, and the wild celebrations of Klopp and their one-eyed fan base, has hurt Everton in ways we could never have imagined. That loss was such a mental blow, it’s not stretching to hyperbole to say the team have never fully recovered from it. And for one defeat – albeit to ‘them’ – should never have cast such a shadow over our season, and this is where the jury is very much out on whether Marco Silva possesses the right attributes to correct things. He appears unable to motivate the players to put that loss behind them and move forward.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 02: Jordan Pickford of Everton reacts as Liverpool players celebrate their team’s winning goal during the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Everton FC at Anfield on December 2, 2018 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

At both Hull and Watford, Marco Silva was highly-rated by a lot of clubs including Everton, however from an outsiders point of view, he seems to have become relatively unpopular amongst Everton fans following some indifferent results to say the least. What do you make of Silva and is his future at Everton really in as much doubt as it seems?

Despite Silva being (allegedly) highly-rated, his time at Hull, Watford and now with Everton has seen an all too familiar pattern followed. A relatively bright start with some decent looking football that sadly tails away as the deficiencies in his defensive coaching become all too apparent. He employs zonal marking, but it appears that he or whoever is actually coaching the system just can’t get their ideas into the players heads. Hull leaked goals, Watford leaked goals and as is become a huge source of embarrassment, Everton are leaking goals. Our defending, as with Hull and Watford previously, of set pieces is nothing short of laughable, but in an extremely unfunny way. Therefore, at this stage of the season with five of the ‘big six’ all coming to Goodison, our expectations are probably as low as they could be, and thus the doubts over Silva and his long-term future with Everton grow with every goal conceded and points dropped.

HUDDERSFIELD, ENGLAND – JANUARY 29: Marco Silva, Manager of Everton looks on during the Premier League match between Huddersfield Town and Everton at John Smith’s Stadium on January 29, 2019 in Huddersfield, United Kingdom. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

What have you made of Manchester City this season compared to the 17/18 campaign and who do you expect to go on to win the league this year between the blues and a certain club across Stanley Park?

I think most, if not all Evertonians are hoping that absolutely anybody but ‘them’ win the Premier League this season. It would be bad enough locally with Kopites crowing all over the place, but the RS-infested media will be utterly insufferable. So if you guys can’t win it, then it has to be Spurs. From a footballing standpoint, there are times when it is a joy to watch the footie your team plays; pace, movement, desire, passion, skill – they have it all and I honestly think most neutrals would echo these feelings. You’ve a talent-laden squad, probably the best manager of modern times and a club hierarchy willing and able to finance their ambitions.

The last meeting between these two clubs saw a 3-1 win for City at the Etihad back in December. Do you expect the clash between the two clubs to go any different this time round? 

I’d love to say that you’re in for one helluva game on Wednesday, but after some of our recent performances, I’m struggling to see anything other than a victory for City. The fear for Evertonians is how severe the measure of victory might be. Setting aside the fact that a City win would ‘help’ in your scrap for the title with ‘them’, we have our pride to play for and there’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal… and boy are we wounded right now!

Everton haven’t won against City in the last three meetings between the two sides, however their last win came in a 4-0 demolition of Pep Guardiola’s side at Goodison Park. How do you expect Wednesday night’s game to go? 

As above, we’d love to have a repeat of that stunning 4-0 win, but the form book would suggest it’s more likely to be 0-4. I fully expect to see City dominate the possession and carve open a host of goalscoring chances. How many you put away will be in the lap of the Gods… and we’ll hope for a miracle.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – JANUARY 15: A dejected Raheem Sterling of Manchester City reacts during the Premier League match between Everton and Manchester City at Goodison Park on January 15, 2017 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Can we get a potential Everton line-up with a few key players City should look out for on Wednesday night and a score prediction?

I’d expect the line-up to be Pickford, Digne, Zouma, Keane, Coleman, Gana Gueye, Gomes, Sigurdsson, Bernard, Richarlison and Tosun. If, and it’s a big if, we play to the undoubted skill levels we know our players possess, those to watch will be Gomes, Sigurdsson, Bernard and Richarlison. Gomes can be silky smooth in the midfield, Bernard and Richarlison are Brazilian so you expect them to be naturally gifted while Sigurdsson remains something of an enigma to many. Digne is an exciting attacking left back, but I fully expect him to be far busier defending than getting forward on Wednesday. If they all play and play well, we can and might give you a game… our problems will come when you guys get forward and threaten to run amok with our fragile defence, particular from set pieces. As to a score prediction… the heart says 2-1, I fear however for the aforementioned form book 0-4 or worse.

You can follow GrandOldTeam on twitter here: @GrandOldTeam

You can follow us on twitter for more Manchester City content: @City_Xtra

You can also follow both Freddie and Andy on twitter here: @FreddiePye_ / @AndyCostigan1

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