Everton will be hoping to end a four-game winless run when the Premier League resumes this weekend, but they’re set to face a tricky test in the shape of reigning champions Manchester City.
Rafa Benitez’s charges have already experienced a season of two halves in the opening weeks of 2021/22, losing just one of their opening seven top-flight fixtures before picking up a single point from a possible 12.
A draw against Tottenham Hotspur last time out halted a streak of three consecutive losses, but a much-needed win will be hard to come by when they visit the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
The two sides faced off three times in all competitions last season after they were pitted against each other in the FA Cup, with the Citizens comfortably winning all three encounters with an aggregate score of 10-1.
One player who started every game in the one-sided trilogy was Gabriel Jesus, and the £90,000-per-week beast played a pivotal part in the Manchester side’s success, grabbing a goal and an assist against the Toffees.
His 14th-minute strike in the 5-0 thrashing in the last game of the season extended his impressive record against Everton, taking his tally to eight strikes in nine appearances when lining up to take on the Blues.
For context, only 12 players have scored more against the Toffees than Jesus in the entire club’s history.
With City’s plethora of attacking options cutting opposition’s defences open at will this term, Benitez faces a near-impossible task of keeping the likes of Phil Foden, Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva at bay, but perhaps it’s Jesus who he should be most concerned about.
This season, the 24-year-old has almost been exclusively used out wide rather than in his typical centre-forward position, making him more elusive and harder to mark.
Jesus’ unwavering work ethic also makes him a nightmare for full-backs and opponents looking to push forward, an attribute that Pep Guardiola holds in high regard.
“He is exceptional and he has a key role for us for many years and been a big part of the huge success we’ve had every season,” the Spanish tactician remarked.
“Sergio was injured and played a few games last season. Always when Sergio was fit he was an important part of the team. He was incredibly recognised by me.
“He was a proper striker and Gabriel is a proper striker.
Football has a quirky habit of repeating itself and producing patterns over a number of years, and Everton are going to have to be on their best form to prevent Jesus from becoming their new nemesis.