Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
Everton v Manchester City | Wednesday 6 January | Goodison Park | 22:00
Everton host Manchester City in the second Capital One Cup semi-final this Wednesday. Despite both sides boasting impressive goal scoring records, this game may ultimately prove to be a rather cagey affair. Neither team will be keen on going into the second leg needing to chase the game, so expect to see both sides focus more on keeping their shape than playing their free flowing brands of football.
To Win (90 Mins)
Manchester City 21/20
Everton come into this one off the back of one of the more exciting draws that the Premier League has seen this term. The Toffees managed to steal into the lead within the first 25 minutes of the game. The goal was tinged in irony as former Spurs stalwart Aaron Lennon switched roles with Romelu Lukaku – the burly Belgian has been banging in goals left right and center for the Toffees, but this time around, he was to turn provider - the former Chelsea man laid on a fantastic pass for Lennon, who finished with aplomb.
Everton defended manfully for remaining 20 minutes of the first stanza but were ultimately unable to make it to half-time with their lead still intact. Dele Alli’s curling shot would ensure Tottenham drew level with only seconds remaining before the halftime whistle went. Despite no goals being scored in the second stanza, it was still a riveting 45 minutes of football. Both teams continued to attack but poor finishing and a bit of hard luck meant the spoils would be shared.
While it’s always astute to take a look at a team’s most recent performance when weighing up whether to put money on them or not - last Sunday’s fixture may have proved to be the perfect blueprint for the Toffees and us punters. Everton showed that they are more than capable of digging in for a draw even if they being dominated by the opposition. While Spurs are by no means as fluent or as adept at keeping the ball as City, both teams do implement a similar system. They like using their technically gifted midfielders to build up attacks and play through the channels.
Everton’s midfield pairing of Barry and Barkley dealt with Tottenham’s midfield quite well but Roberto Martinez may be a bit worried about how much time and space was afforded to the likes of Dele Alli at the top of the box. If Yaya Toure and co are given the same freedom at the top of the Everton 18 yard area, then the Toffees may well go into the second leg trailing.
In terms of team news, I expected Martinez to field a very similar looking side to the one that took on Spurs. The only changes I could see the former Wigan mentor making is to bring in Phil Jagielka for Ramiro Fune Mori and to replace Aaron Lennon or Aruna Kone with Gerard Deulofeu.
A late comeback victory, last time out, has seen the Citizens stay within three points of Premier League leaders Arsenal. While it wasn’t a vintage City performance – they trailed for the majority of the game and looked woefully out of sync – Manuel Pelligrini will still be content with his side picking up three points against a resilient Watford outfit.
Anyway enough about City’s EPL predicament. The Sky Blues have been in majestic form during the Capital One Cup this season. The third round saw them hammer Sunderland by a 4-1 scoreline while their round of 16 fixture ended with them trouncing Crystal Palace by 5-1. Obviously not satisfied with their goal scoring record of nine goals in two matches - Pellegrini’s men went on to demolish Hull City by a 4-1 scoreline in their quarter-final.
So 13 goals in three games at an average of 4.3 goals per game for the Citizens. With a record like this, you must think I’m mad for predicting a cagey affair. Hear me out, though. The last three teams City have played, have all had rag-tag defenses. It’s not hard to put a couple goals past men who are in the twilight of their careers. Take Sunderland for example. John O’Shea was a decent enough player in his heyday at Manchester United, but the Irishmen makes Per Mertesacker look fast nowadays. The exact same words could be used to describe Crystal Palaces’ Damian Delaney. The 34-year-old had a torrid time trying to deal with City’s lightning quick counter attacks.
With John Stones in the back four for Everton, I suspect City will have a much tougher time trying to find a route to goal. They do have the nuance to break down this Everton attack but I think they may be a bit worried about coughing up the ball. If they have over committed and lose the ball at the top of Everton’s box, then the Toffees may be able to hit them on the counter. This is a scenario that will have been doing Pellegrini’s head in this week. Does he tell his charges to go hell for leather and try and outscore Everton or does he opt for a more conservative approach? If someone had to ask me that question a year ago, I wouldn’t even have hesitated in saying he’d opt for the former as his game plan of choice. However, with his job seemingly under fire, I feel Pellegrini may go all Mourinho on us and negate the free-flowing football to ensure his side head to the Etihad with a slim advantage or the scores still level.
Verdict: Double Chance – Everton or Draw 7/10
I honestly fancy a draw here, but Everton have been known to produce an upset result or two on their own patch. So instead of predicting an outright draw, I’m going to play it safe and back Everton on the ‘Double Chance’ at 7/10.
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