Oh boy. What a couple of weeks it's been. After riding higher than high post Manchester derby, we've had a rough week. Losing to a striker-less Aston Villa was hard to watch. Oddly enough, I found myself getting calmer towards the end of the game. We've now taken a total of 1 point from 3 away games in the Premier League, all to teams we would expect to beat handily. That's pretty bad.
On the other hand, we've seen how this team can play when it is clicking. With all the fixtures we've had lately, I think we've been a victim of squad rotation as much of anything else. Our defense has had players missing on and off. Micah was out, then Vincent Kompany was too, then Clichy. Now that we've got all of them healthy, I expect to see a much more solid performance at the back.
It will be interesting to see how Pellegrini approaches the match. The strengths of Everton are 1. Lukaku 2. Barkley, and 3. Crosses from the fullbacks.
I think that we'll see Vinnie marking Lukaku everywhere that he goes, taking him out of the game the same way he did while marking Wayne Rooney. That leaves Nastasic the responsibility to make sure that Barkley doesn't get too much space to cause problems. I think that we'll see Fernandinho drop deeper to help cover him as well.
That leaves Clichy and Zabaleta the unenviable task of making sure that Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman don't get too many good crosses off. I wouldn't be surprised to see Jesus Navas sitting deeper along the right side to help out there.
A large amount of focus will be on what Manuel Pellegrini does in goal. Does he play Joe Hart against a team that bombs in a ton of crosses? Or does he go with Pantimilion, who was biochemically engineered to handle crosses in the box?
Who will play?
David Silva got twenty minutes at the end of the Bayern beatdown. I think he'll get a start tomorrow. He is still among the leaders in key passes per 90. Having him back will allow Nasri to get a rest. He's played well, but looks to have lost a little sharpness over the past week.
Rodwell and Jovetic are each working through some knocks, although both should be back soon.
That means we'll see another pairing of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho in midfield. The two of them have combined pretty well in attack, although they have left some gaps in protecting the back four.
This will be the kind of game that shows us where our team is at. We've got everyone fit and ready to go, with no midweek Champion's League match to rest players for. It is against a team that hasn't lost a match yet in the Premier League. Everton have been a bogey team of ours, and are set up to be a tough match up tomorrow. This will be a good benchmark for the progress that Pellegrini has made.