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Everton 1 City 0

It was a disappointing return from the game yesterday, in a game which I really thought we would be value to get a point, and with Liverpool slipping up it would have been a real boost to have put some space between ourselves and Everton and stretched our lead from the final Champions League position.

It was not to be though, and reflecting on the game it was little wonder given that it was not until injury time until we really tested Tim Howard in the Everton goal - from a Petrov shot which was well handled, and a tame Bianchi header.

Sven started the game, not with Castillo making way for Elano but with Elano shifting to the right hand side of midfield - the position he occupies for Brazil, but I don't think the reshuffle deployed worked to any great effect, and by the hour mark it was 'as you were' as far as the tactical line-up was concerned.

It was a frustrating game to watch, as the amount of possession that we wasted was remarkable and time and again the build up play was good and a move was developing only for it to break down in the final third. Any half-chances that fell around the area always seemed to fall to Corluka as opposed to an Elano or Petrov, who it's fair to say would be better positioned.

Sven was particularly frustrated with the amount of long balls which were being hit - '17 or 18' apparantly, and it became even more apparant (as each game goes by I think) that a top class striker with presence and pace (not to mention goals) is a necessity to help us maintain the position we have got ourselves in.

This is something we have suffered from in the past when we face teams who are compact and organised, and we struggled yesterday against an Everton side - perhaps because of the absences of a couple of creative players from their side, who were happy for us to dominate in terms of possession but willing to shut us down in the areas where it mattered and it was also a factor that they were first to much of the 'second ball', and with the pace they have on the break this suited them fine.

Both sides clearly have Champions League aspirations this season looking at the current standings, and whilst we may have more financial clout before the transfer window, Everton have a side who David Moyes has built into an effective outfit, put together over a number of seasons now and this can only stand them in good stead.

Despite Liverpool's best attempts to make the fourth spot a very open and closely fought contest, I don't think either ourselves or Everton quite have enough (this season) to snatch it, but from all of the sides I have seen this season I think both teams are clearly in the driving seat (and my tip) to pick up the two guaranteed UEFA positions.

A busy week ahead for us now with a pair of games against West Ham back on home turf, and it is vital that we get a couple of wins under our belt before some tricky fixtures ahead - perhaps even moreso in the Premier League rather than the FA Cup given Saturday's score?

Reports:

The Independent
The Observer
BBC Sport
ToffeeWeb
mcfc.co.uk