Alleluia! The Premier League returns after the international break on Saturday with one of the most intriguing fixtures of the weekend.
Club Journalist @markbooth_mcfc takes a look at four things to look out for when Ronald Koeman brings his Everton side to the Etihad.
1 And We're Back!
International football is all well and good but we’re sure you’ve missed your City fix as much as we have.
These FIFA fortnights feel especially long after a defeat when there’s no instant opportunity to put things right but events in North London will now be fully flushed out of the system following the calendar year’s penultimate pause.
Saturday’s game against Everton almost feels like the first game of the season all over again as a full month has passed since we were together at the Etihad Stadium.
How long ago that 4-0 win over Bournemouth in our last home game feels now and while the short sleeves worn on that day may be retired until the spring, the excitement will be no less felt when the Toffees come to town.
2 Returning Heroes
Pep Guardiola confirmed that all of the injured players (bar Bacary Sagna) have returned to full training, meaning there’s a chance we could see returns to the squad for Kevin De Bruyne and Vincent Kompany following their muscle injuries.
It also means that Raheem Sterling has made good progress since missing the international break and could be in contention to feature.
There will be no sense of prioritizing the UEFA Champions League fixture against FC Barcelona as far as Guardiola is concerned.
In his Friday media briefing, the Catalan emphasised that the next game is always the most important one as far as he is concerned.
3 Dream Team
“When Ronald needed water, he’d wake up to water from me.” – Pep Guardiola.
If you had any doubt as to the esteem City’s boss holds his Everton counterpart in, his press conference on Friday told you all you needed to know.
Nine years Koeman’s junior, Guardiola learned a great deal from the classy defender when they were teammates at the Camp Nou in the 1990s.
There, they were at the opposite ends of their storied careers and under the tutelage of one of the beautiful game’s most influential visionaries, Johan Cruyff and both have clearly applied the Dutch master’s principles in their teams as they’ve embarked on successful coaching careers.
For that reason, you just know that we’re in for one of the most attractive games of the season so far when Guardiola and Koeman lock horns in England for the first time.
4 Turning of the Tide?
Everton, whether home or away, used to be one of the most dreaded fixtures on the calendar for City supporters but recent results suggest that some of the fear factor may have dissipated.
We’re unbeaten in our last six Premier League meetings with the Merseysiders, winning four and drawing two and we’ve won three and drawn two of our last five clashes at the Etihad.
Before that, we’d lost each of the previous four, so there is some sense that the tide may be turning but, with memories of Tim Cahill boxing the corner flag at the Etihad still clinging to the grim corners of the collective subconscious of hardened Blues, there’ll be no taking this one for granted…