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Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Take Manchester City to do just enough to see off Everton

Everton in decent form under Allardyce

Raheem Sterling tries to evade the challenge of Leighton Baines in Manchester City's draw with Everton in August
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BT Sport 1, 5.30pm Saturday

It won’t be the greatest achievement of Pep Guardiola’s career but if they beat Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday Manchester City will have triumphed over all 19 of their Premier League rivals this season.

Everton are just one of four top-flight teams to have taken points off City this term and the only ones to have done so at the Etihad, courtesy of a gutsy 1-1 draw in August.

Back then, many thought Ronald Koeman’s Toffees could be top-six or even top-four challengers this term while City were going to become embroiled in a wide-open fight for the title. Wrong and wrong.

Koeman has gone, so too has any semblance of a challenge to City, who are merely going through the motions as they close in on a third league crown in seven seasons.

Wednesday’s visit to Anfield in the Champions League is the only trip to Merseyside over the coming days which really matters to City, and they can warm up for that test by winning at Everton.

A hammering seems unlikely since Everton have hit something approaching decent form under Sam Allardyce in recent weeks.

Big Sam’s boys have won four of their last seven, including an away game, though that 2-1 win at Stoke was against a team reduced to ten men for more than an hour.

No one is really convinced by Everton on the road, but in front of their own fans their form is definitely much-improved. Unfortunately for the hosts, two of the architects of that upsurge – underrated anchor man Idrissa Gueye and Gylfi Sigurdsson, who was starting to flourish in the number ten role – are both out.

Allardyce could retreat into his shell, as he tends to against better teams, and look to avoid a battering. They have pace on the break with Theo Walcott, Yannick Bolasie among others while Cenk Tosun has suddenly found his feet with four goals in three outings.

This fixture may not be full of goals with Everton’s well-drilled defence ganging up in blocks to deny City space and time around the edge of the box. City usually find a way through, so an away win in a game featuring under 3.5 goals could be the best bet.

Four of their last five matches, and their last three in the league, have been wins in games featuring three or fewer goals.

An alternative might be City to win to nil. They have had 14 wins without conceding in the league this term, including each of their last three.

On their most recent return from an international break in November, they won 2-0 at Leicester, a side similar to Everton in terms of league standing.

There will be upbeat Everton fans who might prefer simply to lump on their lads at 9-1.

They have beaten City at home in each of the last two seasons, once in the League Cup and 4-0 in the league last season. The possible absence of 21-goal Sergio Aguero might add weight to that argument though City seem to cope without their Argentinian ace – they have won all of the six Premier League games he has missed.

Manchester City & under 3.5 goals

1pt 6-5 general

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Team news
Gylfi Sigurdsson is out with a knee injury, while Idrissa Gueye and Tom Davies picked up injuries on international duty. Ashley Williams, Eliaquim Mangala and James McCarthy were already ruled out.

Manchester City
Sergio Aguero, Fabian Delph and Benjamin Mendy are all doubts.

Key stat
City have recorded 13 league wins in games featuring three or fewer goals.

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City have won all of the six Premier League games Aguero has missed
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