The gap at the top of the Premier League between Chelsea and Manchester City is now six points. No team with a lead as big as that at Christmas has not won the title so City must make inroads over the next three weeks. That process can begin this weekend with a home match against Everton while Chelsea are on the road at Newcastle. These matches could be pivotal in the context of the relative point’s tallies at the end of the year.
City looked back to back to their best in beating Sunderland 4-1 away from home on Wednesday. Despite conceding the first goal at the Stadium of Light they eventually ran out comfortable winners playing with the confidence and swagger that saw them score so many goals last season and win the title with something in hand. City moved the ball quickly and they looked a very good team, though overhauling Chelsea may still be beyond them.
The visitors had lost at Sunderland 1-0 in the previous four seasons but any hope of a repeat score line were dashed when Sergio Aguero equalised for City. The top scorer in the league has now scored 19 goals in all matches this season. He is currently right up there with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as being considered he best player in the world.
Aguero’s first goal was the first time City had scored at the stadium in more than four years. The last City player to score in the fixture was Adam Johnson who now plays for Sunderland. Johnson and Jack Rodwell were part of an influx of player to the Etihad but things did not work out for both and they have done little to suggest they were not average signings.
Another strike from Aguero and goals from Steven Jovtic and Pablo Zabaleta clinched the points for City as they continue to put pressure on Chelsea but that side are unlikely to crack. City have now won all of their last four matches in all competitions and Manuel Pellegrini believes his side are now at the level of last season. One blow is the absence of Vincent Kompany for the Everton match and he may not be ready to play against Roma in the Champions League.
Another positive for the club is that they are now on schedule to comply with financial fair play rules which are designed to eliminate over-spending. They still made a significant loss as detailed in the latest financial statements but more TV money and commercial activity means they will not be breaking the rules again soon. There has been a reduction in non-playing staff and the club are still financially strong. Everton are run differently so Saturday’s match will provide a clash of business cultures.
Everton FC are owned by Bill Kenwright , also known for playing Betty Turpin’s son Gordon in Coronation Street, being a West End theatre producer and the partner of actress Jenny Seagrove. He is a wealthy man but not as rich as a Russian oligarch or ruler of a Middle Eastern country. He shops more at Lidl than Waitrose but his beloved Everton have often beaten the big boys.
Everton have been very impressive in the Europa League and beat Wolfsburg away in the competition last week. That side are currently second behind Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga so beating them on their own pitch was a great effort by Everton. Form at home in the league has been less impressive and they dropped points at Goodison against Hull on Wednesday. That side had lost their last four league games and this match looked a home banker. Everton took the lead in the first half but were pegged back after the break and had to settle for point.
The Everton crowd are usually very loyal and can see no wrong in the Blues. Therefore, it must have disturbed Roberto Martinez that Everton were booed off the pitch at the end of the match. His team had five shots on target from 13 efforts in total. The fans must accept that sometimes team will be difficult to break down if they park the bus in search of just a draw. Steve Bruce will be happy Hull did not lose and a result like this can build confidence and momentum.
Everton still hope to finish in the top four and break in to the Champions League set but that process is unlikely to begin away to Manchester City and the home team should secure the points. City cannot afford to lose or draw and even if they don’t drop a single point before the end of the season Chelsea must lose two matches for City to be above them at the end of the season. Everton ‘s Champions League prospects will not be affected too much by a defeat but City can almost count themselves out of the league if they don’t beat Everton.
Chelsea will have played Newcastle earlier on Saturday before the City and Everton match at tea-time. Newcastle were on a good run of form before losing at West Ham last weekend. Their away form is patchy while Chelsea have only lost once in the league at home under Jose Mourinho but this match is in Newcastle. This looks like a regulation away banker and Chelsea should win the match by at least one goal. Diego Costa is available but Didier Drogba has been an able replacement during his absence due to suspension.
Drogba had scored there goals and provide four assists in his last eight Premier League matches against Tottenham before the fixture this week. He added to his tally of goals with the second in a 3-0 win that also included a goal from reserve striker Loic Remy. Costa is a brilliant player who is suited to the demands of the Premier League but Mourinho knows he has players to call on when Costa is not available. An away win will put the onus on Manchester City to beat Everton.