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It’s been a strong first half of the season for Everton all things considered, and after a slight dip in form when they won just one of seven matches, they’ve now pulled it back round and sat in the top four on Christmas Day.
Carlo Ancelotti made an immediate impact at Goodison park leading the Toffees to a nine-match unbeaten run at home when he first arrived, though since then they’ve not been as prolific going W4-D1-L3 here dating back to a defeat to relegated Bournemouth at the end of last season.
The lack of crowds wouldn’t have helped, though Everton remain one of just two clubs who are allowed up to 2,000 fans in stadiums at the moment, and that should give them a little bit of a push against one of the toughest opponents the Premier League has to offer.
The Merseyside club have netted in 15 of the 17 home matches under current management, though across all competitions they’ve now drawn a blank in half of their last four home games and Man City are looking much more defensively stable than in previous years.
Man City have been a far superior defensive unit than in previous years as they sit in the lower echelons of the goals per game table, owing largely to their noticeable lack of output so far, scoring just seven goals in as many games on the road this season, giving them an off colour W3-D3-L1 record away from the Etihad, and Goodison has proved a very difficult place to go for sides over the years.
What’s more, the lack of output and improved defensive displays from the Citizens has unsurprisingly led to a maximum of two goals in six of their seven away games this season and with how resolute Everton’s makeshift defence has been lately we wouldn’t expect a goal fest.
City have the recent head-to-head record in their favour, winning each of the past five meetings between the two, though there’s certainly a change this year as Everton look far superior than they have done in seasons gone by and we’re inclined to take the head-to-head record with a pinch of salt.
This is only the fourth meeting between Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola, with the Italian winning their personal battle 2-1 with both wins coming as his Real Madrid side won both legs of their Champions League tie with Bayern Munich back in 2014, though again that bares little relevance to this game and we’ll avoid the outright here.
Under 2.5 Goals
As mentioned, six of City’s seven away matches this season have seen ‘Unders’ come through and although only two of Everton’s home games have seen that outcome, they’ve been far more resolute since using Ben Godfrey and Mason Holgate as makeshift fullbacks.
Lucas Digne remains sidelined here though it remains to be seen whether Seamus Coleman will be used to get his side further up the pitch on the flanks.
Since the change in defensive tactics, Everton have seen a total of just five goals in their last three home games, and low scoring tactical affair is the most likely here.