Manchester City at Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
City made it five clean sheets in their past six Premier League games with a hard-fought 2-0 victory at Wigan on Wednesday.
Everton, meanwhile, seem to have lost the ability to grab three points with only two wins coming in their past nine league outings. The Merseyside club are sixth but trail second-placed City by 10 points.
Roberto Mancini’s men have scored 15 goals in their past eight league fixtures but it has been their ability to tighten up at the back that has maintained their challenge on arch rivals Manchester United, who they play host to next Sunday.
Teenage defensive kingpin Matija Nastasic is one of the keys to their miserly defence – they have let in just one goal since he established himself as Vincent Kompany’s defensive partner. But for the composed Serbian international, that is one goal too many. He said: “Everything is going well for us. In the last six games we have only conceded one goal – now we need to keep it going, but this time, make it no goals.”
Nastasic has settled incredibly well for such a young player, and he gives the credit for that to the influence of Kompany.
“We talk every day on the pitch and on the training ground, and it makes me happy to play alongside such an excellent captain and in such a good team. Whatever I am learning, I am learning along with Vinny,” said the youngster, whose transfer fee from Fiorentina of 12 million pounds plus Stefan Savic is looking like one of the season’s bargains.
Meanwhile, Everton suffered an injury blow with England defender Leighton Baines injuring a hamstring in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with Arsenal, making him doubtful for the City clash. And they could also be without striker Nikica Jelavic who played despite not training since Saturday because of illness.
Everton manager David Moyes was reluctant to play him: “I wasn’t going to play Jelavic yesterday (Tuesday) but he said he felt better and could play. I thought he was much better in this game as well. I was a lot happier with him,” Moyes said, “He has been off colour but I thought he held the ball up better and was more of a handful. He looked as if he could give us something in the game. I was expecting to have to take him off after 55 minutes but I thought he did well.”
The bright spot for Everton in the past two months has been the form of Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian international midfielder has been involved in eight goals (five goals, three assists) in his last eight league appearances.
Prediction: Manchester City 3 – 1 Everton