Everton-Manchester City Preview
LONDON (SE) - While they haven't been losing much, Everton have been losing ground in the race for the all-important top four spots.
The last Premier League opponent to win in the fortress known as Etihad Stadium, the Toffees seek a crucial three points at the expense of reigning champions Manchester City on Saturday.
Unlike years past, David Moyes' team got off to a quick start in league play and continue to harbour dreams of that elusive elite finish that bestows the reward of Champions League play. Everton (5-7-2), though, have slid to sixth in the table with 22 points - 11 points behind front-running Manchester United and 10 back of Man City - by going 1-6-2 in their last nine matches.
Everton are coming off a 1-1 draw Wednesday at Goodison Park versus Arsenal after Marouane Fellaini's goal in the 28th minute cancelled out an early strike by Theo Walcott. The Toffees had the run of play in the second half, and Moyes was disappointed penalty appeals after Steven Pienaar was taken down by former Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta went unanswered.
"We should have had a penalty," Moyes told Everton's official website. "I thought we played against a really good Arsenal team and a lot of games are won by decisions by referees make or don't make."
It was the fourth goal in four matches for the Belgian midfielder, who has four goals and two assists in six league road matches. While Fellaini continues to be Everton's engine on offence, Moyes has an injury concern on the backline after revealing Leighton Baines is doubtful for this match after picking up a hamstring injury in the second half.
If Baines is unable to play, captain Phil Jagielka may again rotate out to the fullback position after playing in central defence versus the Gunners.
Baines was a key contributor in Everton's 2-1 victory at Manchester City (9-5-0) on Dec. 20, 2010, scoring in the 19th minute to stake the Toffees to a 2-0 lead before an own goal by Jagielka in the 72nd minute set up a nervy finish. Since that defeat, City have reeled off a staggering 36 matches without a blemish at the Etihad, going 33-3-0 while outscoring opponents 98-22.
That home dominance has been on constant display this season, going 6-1-0 and outscoring opponents 18-5 while posting three clean sheets in the last four matches there. City stretched their Premier League-record unbeaten run to 20 matches Wednesday with a 2-0 win at Wigan as Mario Balotelli finally broke his duck in league play by snapping a scoreless tie in the 69th minute before sub James Milner added a long-distance strike three minutes later.
"You see a lot of good teams come here and slip up, so we're delighted to come out with a huge result," Gareth Barry told the team's official website.
Like Moyes, manager Roberto Mancini has an injury issue as Milner left the game after aggravating his hamstring following a 13-minute stint.
"James was in good form, he was important for us tonight and against Chelsea he played very well -- he's very unlucky (to be injured)," Mancini told the team's official website.
Everton have been City's bogey side in recent years, winning eight of the last 10 between the teams in league play. The home team won both matches last season, with City grinding out a 2-0 win in the corresponding fixture on second-half goals by Balotelli and Milner to snap a four-match home losing streak to the Toffees.