Lord knows it hasn't been easy being an Evertonian for much of the last three decades but the intervening period since the Blues' glory days of mid-1980s has certainly been punctuated by moments, special matches and turns of events that remind you why this football club is so deeply embedded in your heart and your soul and why you keep coming back.
This was one of those matches and much more; an almost perfect afternoon which layered on memorable moment after memorable moment, building to a crescendo as Everton inflicted on Pep Guardiola the heaviest defeat of his much-lauded managerial career. It was the Spaniard's first match at Goodison Park and, as images of him sitting slumped and shell-shocked in the dugout amid a rocking, triumphant atmosphere illustrated, it's one that will live long in his memory, too.
Had nothing of note happened for the 56 minutes after Romelu Lukaku put the Blues into the lead, the game would likely have been a special enough occasion in its own right. It had started with pre-match poignancy as the Belgian carried Bradley Lowery, the little Sunderland fan diagnosed with Neuroblastoma who was mascot for the day, onto the field, followed by a minute's applause for Graham Taylor and Jim Greenwood, both of whom passed away last week.
Those heart-warming moments coupled with a 1-0 win, delivered by a well-worked, expertly finished goal and underscoring the incremental progress being made under Ronald Koeman, would have represented a lovely afternoon for the home fans on their own. What unfolded was as unexpected as it was thrilling.
The days leading up the game had been dominated by the arrival of Morgan Schneiderlin and the hope that, following last weekend's chastening cup exit at the hands of Leicester and the manner of it, the Frenchman might be able to make an instant impact to mark the next phase of Koeman's rebuilding process.
The expectation and, perhaps, fear was that the new signing would replace Tom Davies if he were deemed to fit enough to start; in the end, while he was named on the bench and came on after 65 minutes to replace Kevin Mirallas, his appearance was a footnote in the narrative of this game as Davies took top billing on a day full of potential headlines.
The 18-year-old midfielder retained in his place in the side alongside Gareth Barry in a line-up that featured just one change from last weekend, that of Mirallas for Enner Valencia, and had by the final whistle come of age with a personal performance to savour.
It was his anticipation of Gael Clichy's forward pass and beautifully-weighted forward pass to Mirallas that split three opposition players down the right channel that created the first goal and illustrated his versatility as a central midfielder. The Belgian's cutback to his compatriot near the penalty spot was perfect and Lukaku side-footed confidently past the wrong-footed Claudio Bravo to make it 1-0 in the 34th minute.
It was Everton's first real chance of the match — an equally good move that ended with Mirallas tapping home from close range had been pulled back for offside on Seamus Coleman earlier in the half — which was a reflection of how this contest had been expected to play out: City controlling possession, carving out the bulk of the chances and the hosts needing to take the chances that fell their way.
Guardiola's side had indeed looked the more likely to score up to that point even if Everton were determined not to make it easy for them. The Blues were tenacious from the first whistle — Mason Holgate, excellent throughout, had stamped his authority on Sergio Agüero after just 22 seconds with a robust tackle and it took Davies just six minutes to get his first warning from Mark Clattenburg when he fouled Raheem Sterling.
City were left smarting in the 12th minute, however, when Sterling went down in the box, apparently clipped by Joel Robles as he tried to dribble his way to goal. Television replays would reveal the Spanish ‘keeper did make contact with the winger's leg but Leighton Baines's covering tackle that trapped the ball largely rendered the argument moot — he wouldn't have scored even if he'd kept his feet.
If the visitors felt aggrieved going into the break a goal down, it was down to Robles, who kept his place despite Maarten Stekelenburg's return to fitness, and Davies who ensured the Blues took a clean sheet into half time. The ‘keeper saved Sterling's volley from close range from a floated ball over the top of the defence and then did brilliantly to save at the feet of David Silva in similar circumstances after Ramiro Funes Mori had been caught out trying to rampage through midfield.
Davies, meanwhile, was perfectly placed on his own goal line in first-half stoppage time to head Bacary Sagna's looping header away after the fullback had been picked out by a deep cross from the left by Clichy.
Any attempt by City to get back into the game early in the second half was cut off the knees superbly by Everton who doubled the lead within two minutes of the restart and then took a stranglehold on the contest as every player in royal blue seemed to grow in stature.
Barry knocked the ball away from Yaya Toure in the centre circle to Lukaku and though his slide-rule pass aimed for Mirallas was cut out by John Stones's almost telescopic leg, the ball broke to Barkley who quickly played the latter Belgian in on the edge of the box. Mirallas, whose personal rejuvenation under Koeman's stewardship over the past month has perhaps flown under the radar, checked his run masterfully to stay onside and made no mistake with the opportunity, rifling a low shot into the far corner to make it 2-0.
That almost nothing of note in terms of chances happened for the next half an hour was testament to the way in which City's much-touted attack had been completely stifled. Funes Mori had settled down following a couple of rash moments in the first half, Ashley Williams was enjoying one of his best displays in an Everton shirt so far and both Davies and Barry were suffocating De Bruyne in the middle of the park, a player who cost about the same amount as the Toffees' starting XI combined.
Barkley, meanwhile, shrugged off a chequered first period of his own where he had let himself down with some poor forward distribution to play a vital role in what was a sublime third goal 11 minutes from time, one which may end up being one of the most viewed Everton goals of the past few years.
Holgate dispossessed Sterling just outside his own area, Davies picked up the loose ball and took off down the right flank. Leaving Clichy and Touré for dead with an audacious “Ronaldo chop” on the touchline, his role in the attack seemed to have been ended by a collision with Stones. The teenager sensed opportunity, however, picked himself up in time to collect another precise Barkley pass and picked his moment to clip the ball over the advancing Bravo. Time seemed to slow down as it bounced goal-wards by the near post, Lukaku arriving to make sure the spin on the ball didn't carry it wide before Davies wheeled away in almost incredulous celebration in front of the Gwladys Street end.
A brilliant first ever goal for a player already rapidly blossoming into an Everton star felt like the icing on the cake but just when you felt it couldn't get any better, the day had one last moment of magic to offer after Robles had saved well from Agüero and Lukaku had cut a left-foot shot across goal from a tight angle.
Koeman sent new signing Ademola Lookman on in the 89th minute to savour the atmosphere and get a few minutes under his belt as an Everton player but within minutes he would etch his name onto a fabulous Blues performance with a moment of anticipation and a confident finish that rounded out the win in style.
In a similar fashion to Everton under Roberto Martinez, City had spent much of the first half trying to play their way out from the back, sometimes in the most risk-defying manner, so it was ironic that Stones's attempt to just knock the ball into the stands in the final minute of stoppage time ricocheted off Coleman and bounced into Lookman's path. The 19-year-old took one touch to put the ball in front of him and then buried a shot between the ‘keeper's legs before he, too, made for the Street end in elation, knee-sliding towards the corner flag before being mobbed by his team-mates. Robles ran the length of the field to join the party as Lukaku bear-hugged the stunned teenager, the celebrations the last act before Clattenburg blew the final whistle as demoralised City kicked off for the final time.
More so than the win over Arsenal a month ago, where the Blues seemed to turn the game on its head through force of will; Evertonians will hope this is a transformative moment in Koeman's first season. Certainly, the precocious impact of Davies, the freedom his presence seems to afford Barkley, the increasingly prominent leadership role Lukaku appears to be adopting, Mirallas's revival and the emergence of a solid defensive three in the form of Williams; Holgate and Funes Mori, means it has the potential to be.
It should not be overlooked that City came into this fixture on the back of a 5-0 FA Cup demolition of West Ham away from home and with their title credentials intact despite defeat to Leicester last month. Everton, meanwhile, supposedly had nothing to play for after being dumped out the cup.
Questions still remain over the team's mentality when the chips are down — last weekend's cup defeat came not long after the festive-season wins over the Gunners and Foxes — and its ability to unlock more entrenched, less charitable defences when the onus will be on them to attack and create rather than absorb pressure and prey ruthlessly on opposition errors. The solutions there may yet lie in the transfer market but the evidence that the current personnel are finally adapting to the manager's methods and are growing in confidence as a result certainly bodes well for a season that is not over despite the gloom that was pervasive last weekend.
And even if it were, the possibilities would still exist for moments like the ones served up on a transcendent afternoon at the Grand Old Lady. More performances like today and Koeman's goal top-six goal won't be as far-fetched as it looked eight days ago.
Everton return to Premier League action with new signings Morgan Schneiderlin and Ademola Lookman on the bench.
Team captain Phil Jagielka is also on the bench with Gareth Barry leading out the side against Manchester City in the pouring rain at Goodison Park. In the absence of Gueye, Tom Davies starts alongside Barry in central midfield, ahead of McCarthy, Schneiderlin and Lennon, all on the bench. Also, Stekelenburg, fit again, but overlooked in favour of Robles.
Proceedings got under way after a moment of applause in memory of Graham Taylor, dead at 72. Everton kicking off and John Stones getting an early touch roundly booed City. Funes Mori did scoop the ball forward for Barkley who was too advanced and called offside.
Some great work by Barkley in defence saw a ball forward for Lukaku to run onto but it was played too hard. Davies was called for a foul. As City looked to break, Baines and Barry combined for a promising cross that was overhit. A lovely move had the ball in the Park End net but Coleman had run offside in the move.
Barkley and Mirallas drove forward, winning a corner that was played deep but Cit broke well, De Bruyne feeding Sterling but Robles and Baines contrived to deny him... possibly illegally but Clattenberg denied the early penalty appeals.
Everton were making a really good fist of this, taking the game to their illustrious guests, and showing a little more skill and composure than sen of late. Lukaku had a chance to beat Otamendi but his first touch was poor.
A good De Bruyne cross was cut out well by Williams, while Lukaku tried a cross that almost found Barkley. The Blues tried to keep control but Williams launched a loose ball forward and into touch. City threatened with a sharp ball from Sterling to Zabaleta.
City were getting a little more of the ball after a good opening 20 mins from the Blues that had not seen a clear-cut chance. More pressing was needed to force the turnover, but Lukaku could not control Mirallas's ball and in the return move, Holgate was penalized for what looked a lot like a dive by Aguero into the area, but it was defended away, with no-one upfield to benefit. Sterling got behind the Everton defence on a superb ball but Robles was well b=placed to gather his shot.
Barkley looked to run and play Mirallas in but he had not run into the space. Lukaku was the next on the end of a poorly paced pass and the Goodison crowd reacted to the lack of quality. De Bruyne picked out Silva for what looked like a certain goal that was well thwarted by Robles, again well positioned, but City were now threatening to slice them apart.
Davies fouled Silva and gave City a good chance from a central position that De Bruyne powered into the Blue wall. The Blues finally got forward to relieve the pressure but it was a little scrappy.
A sweet passing move put the Blues ahead through Lukaku After a great ball forward by Davies, Mirallas crossing to the Big Man who slammed it past Bravo. A very nice Everton goal.
Funes Mori forced to yield a corner that flicked off Stones's head and the Blues dealt well enough with the danger, while the Goodison faithful finally had some good end product to cheer. De Bruyne got a great low cross that needed a tap-in from Aguerro, but just in front of him, as Funes Mori was fouled but the Blues defended the corner. Sterling's shot form a corner was close.
Funes Mori was called for his final warning, but only after Clattenburg received instructions form Aguero. Barkley and Mirallas once again failed to connect and another forward move broke down early. Barkley was not having a good game despite getting a lot of the ball as another of his promising passes was telegraphed.
Lukaku got loose off a fine ball from Barry but Otimendi blocked him for a corner that was eventually repelled. De Bruyne and Zabelata looked to force a chance but Robles was again out well and took a hit to his head that delayed stoppage time. Davies had to clear off the line and Toure's shot needed blocking after a decent half of football from Everton.
The game resumed at in no time at all, Lukaku fed Barkley off a defender, Barkley fed Mirallas... Goal! A lovely finish across Bravo into the far corner.
Barkley played well out of defence and again fed Mirallas, this time sown the wing but he was thwarted by a Sagna. City looked to build and apply pressure, the Blues needed to now defend a well-earned lead.
Barkley gave a way two fouls in quick succession, mostly due to the smarts of his opponents. Stones got on the end of the free-kick but could only head straight to Robles. Holgate picked up the first yellow, again more due to the smarts of Sterling.
Mirallas appeared to be caught by Zabeleta and needed treatment. Davies was then in a little too sharply himself, but Lukaku headed away De Bruyne's ball... Holgate had to be quick to deny Aguero. Zabaleta was replaced by Iheanacho. Lukaku failed to hold-up the ball for Mirallas and then ambled around in an offside position for Barry's quick ball out of defence.
A big welcome for Morgan Schneiderlin, who replaced goalscorer Mirallas. The Blues were making a decent battle of it in midfield, doing enough to thwart the City attacks without creating much, seemingly hoping that the two goals would be enough with 20 minutes left. Aguero conjoured a shot that Robles parried for a corner.
Barry made way for McCarthy and that saw some real midfield pressing from Barkley and Davies that roused the crowd. Silva then tripped Davies and saw yellow.
Schneiderlin fouled Sterling, Toure's shot held well by Robles. Davies then scored a fantastic almost solo goal to make it three!! Picking up the ball deep and going on an excellent run, with a superb trick to totally fool Toure and then getting the ball back from Barkley to finish with a delightful chip over Bravo, Lukaku running in to try and claim the final touch. The 18-year-old was well mobbed by the entire team in front of the old Boys Pen.
Davies then got in it a little with Sterling who had tackled him a little too strongly, Holgate and Aguero getting the talking to. Lukaku had a great chance to make it four but fluffed his lines from a narrow angle.
The Blues tried to create a fourth with Barkley but it didn't happen. Ademola Lookman came on at the end for his Everton debut, with 4 minutes if stoppage time.
Lukaku and Otamendi clashed after the City player had fouled him, Otamendi faking a head-butt, both players seeing yellow cards. The fourth goal finally came and it was a peach from the 12-year-old Ademola Lookman, firing straight through Bravo's legs off a great cut back from Coleman.
Everton: Robles, Baines, Williams, Funes Mori, Holgate [Y:56'], Coleman, Barry (74' McCarthy), Davies, Mirallas (64' Schneiderlin), Barkley (90' Lookman), Lukaku [Y:92'].
Subs not Used: Stekelenburg, Jagielka, Lennon, Valencia.
Manchester City: Bravo, Sagna, Stones, Otamendi [Y:92'], Clichy, Yaya Toure, Zabaleta (62' Iheanacho) (C), De Bruyne, Sterling, Silva [Y:75'], Aguero.
Subs not Used: Caballero, Kolarov, Delph, Sane, Navas, A Garcia.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
From My Seat: Man City (H)Alarms set early for a Sky bonanza featuring Liverpool v Manchester with Everton hosting Man City and being the early k.o. The lengths broadcasters will go to hype up the viewing figures without ever stopping to think how it might inconvenience fans always gets to me. It doesn’t affect me to any degree but those long distance fans I feel for. It was a dull dank day with drizzle and showers as we convened and as there is no good or bad time for a pint it was ordered and juniors were dispatched to Makie D’s for breakfast fayre.
Not many had much hope for us after witnessing that cup exit but with the delivery of the teams and the sight of our two new men on the bench spirits were raised. The walk up was quiet mainly due to January weather but the fan zone and all the eateries were well populated.
The teams entered the arena and captain Gareth Barry and today’s mascot Bradley Lowery the little Sunderland fan who is terminally ill was carried on by Romeu Lukaku. Everton had helped to get treatment. He carried out his duties well and a message of thanks from his parents was put up on the big screen and got a grand round of applause. He then scampered off to join in a kick about with some other youngsters and it was heart-warming to see him so full of it and lively. Everton do this stuff so well.
The game started on the whistle of today’s ref Mr Clattenberg who is not unknown to us. The first actions were mainly City pressing forward with Everton looking not to give them an edge. Right away you could see that words had been said over the week as we were quick into the tackle and looking to break at speed when we could. Our first scare came when from a City clearance Aguero was found out left and he sent a good pass for De Bruyne to head for the dead ball line and cross for the speedy Sterling to find himself unmarked in centre of the goal. Breath was held as the worst was feared but as he took a touch Robles slid out and blocked just as Baines slid in from the other side and between the two of them the threat was no more plus no interference from the ref much to City’s chagrin. Du Bruyne found Sterling down the left and the ex-red found Silva free in the six yard box with just Joel to beat, we feared the worst but Joel was out fast and blocked Silva’s effort but the ball squirmed loose and before Silva could get a shot the defence were back and Williams got a good clearing hoof to it. It was noticeable we were operating at a much quicker pace this week and our pressing of the man on the ball was admirable to the extent that City were now less of a threat whilst we were more of a threat.
Everton were ever ready to press forward as they moved the ball with pace and with some 15mins to the break Tom Davies picked up the ball on half way and strode forth and released a peach of a pass to Mirallas who took it on at pace down the right, looked up and fed a perfect cross to Rom’s feet and the big Belgian hit a left footer that left the keeper flat footed and the net bulging to the sound of a Goodison Roar. We were in front and deserved it as we had weathered their early threat and had now hit back.
We had one more scare before the break when from a City cross Davies did a defensive header that only found Sterling just outside the area and his shot although powerful was a tad too high. That man Davies was to the fore again when he headed a looping header off our line, some record that made one and saved one in short order.
Many said the same thing in that a second goal to us would be handy as we were sure Pep would have given them a Pep talk.
The second half started and within a minute, to our astonishment and glee we doubled our lead when the ball bounced of Rom and went loose but Barry was quick to go in hard and win it and prod it forward to Ross who ran at their defence and had them backing away before feeding Mirallas who took it to the right of the keeper before firing it back across him and into the street onion bag. Cue mayhem. Then a loud – very loud chant of ‘Who are yer’ ‘Who are yer’ directed at the once rowdy away end.
We now settled into a Koeman trade mark tactic by playing deep but breaking with pace when we could and the shift put in by all the players in really pushing themselves bodes well for the future. Imagine that with consistency and a large dose of the camaraderie shown today. City were no longer getting behind us and although they had the lion’s share of the ball it was all played out in front of us which is always a good sign that with no lapses in concentration the goal will stay intact and that is how the half went on. We did have a couple of raids that had them scurrying. On the hour Pep sacrificed Zabaleta in favour of Ieanacho to try to get more threat in his teams attack, it didn’t work,
We were looking decent now and the atmosphere a bit more relaxed so much so that the manager decided to give Schneiderlin his debut in place of Mirallas. Both players got good applause as they crossed.80 mins arrived and Tom Davies still full of running raced with the ball from his own half and on nearing the area played a ball into Rom who miscued it to Barkley who saw Davies who had fallen over get up again and feed him in. he took the ball up to the keeper and then with a cheeky dink left keeper grounded and ball netted. His first Everton first team goal and boy did we all celebrate with everyone’s man of the match.
All the songs and chants now. Stonesy, Stonesy what’s the score was well belted out. That was game over and probably Man City’s title hopes. Four mins of added time and the manager felt easy enough to give our latest ‘one for the future’ his debut. Our young man Lookman looked as though he had just left school but boy what a debut as Stones fired a clearance that hit Coleman and the ball bounced loose in the box and Lookman pounced, controlled it and then slammed it between keeper’s legs and home. A boy’s entrance to the game and a man’s finish to the game. He looks a Gud UN that one.
Final whistle and the rendition of ‘If yer know yer ‘Istory’ was deafening. In that second half the bear pit was back at Goodison.
MotM – Tom Davies
On the walk back someone said it was raining – I never noticed I wondered today whilst watching if this was the style Koeman is seeking. It looked to me like you need some very fit and fast players to chivvy and harry all game and if we can keep the clinical finishing going who knows where it could take us. Although Davies was MotM today I wonder where he will stand in the pecking order when Schneiderlin is match fit and Gana is back from ACN? Still a nice problem to have for the manager I reckon.
Looking at our fixture list if we can put games together like today then seventh should be ours or even better if anyone above us collapses. So still something to play for. See you soon.
UP THE BLUES
Our best performance since...?
I met a mate in The Winslow at the staggeringly early time of 10.30am. He had some tickets for me to collect for next weekends game at Crystal Palace, though as he'd forgotten them I needn't have bothered getting there so early and could instead have taken the later lift from Gaz. Regardless, it was nice to catch up with David and his Manchester City supporting friend Steve over a few, early, beers.
David and Steve had to head into the ground pretty early so I met with Ste, Gaz and, spontaneously, Stuart for a few in The Brick. Here we learnt of our team news. "That's pretty much the team I'd have picked" I said. Our new signings Morgan Schneiderlin and Ademola Lookman both made the substitutes bench. It was good to see Everton return to three at the back with Kevin Mirallas in attack - something we should have done last weekend against Leicester City. John Stones returned for Manchester City alongside Nicolas Otamendi with Raheem Sterling, David Silva, Yaya Toure, Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero amongst the vast array of talent we had to compete with. We had our work cut out.
Last weekend against Leicester City the atmosphere was strangely flat. This time around everybody was bang up for the game and Goodison Park was rocking. It was heart warming to see Romelu Lukaku carry young Bradley Lowery onto the pitch before a minute's applause was observed in respect of Graham Taylor and our previous club secretary, Jim Greenwood.
We began the game brightly, this form continuing throughout with everybody doing their jobs all over the pitch and we were good money for our lead when Kevin Mirallas squared for Romelu Lukaku to smash Everton into the lead. The goal felt like it had brought the house down then, though with every preceding goal the applause felt louder and stronger such was the quality of our display. Following our opener we did have a rocky few minutes but we thankfully galvanised and led at the break 1-0.
It was nice to see young Bradley on the pitch playing football with the other kids at the break. The ground staff tried to let him score into the Gwladys Street goal but he didn't quite fancy it and ran back to his loving parents. It was bittersweet. Great to see him out there enjoying himself, but so sad given the situation. You have to admire their bravery and can only wish them nothing but the best.
Into the second half and I can seldom remember Everton coming out of the traps like that after the break with an early goal. Kevin Mirallas this time finishing low into the corner past Claudio Bravo. Everton 2-0 ahead, Manchester City rocked.
A few of the lads around us began to get twitchy as we seemed t drop back as Manchester City tried to rally, though everything was in front of us and, despite Mark Clattenburg's best efforts, we held firm and on 79 minutes we made the game safe virtue to a quite brilliant goal from young Tom Davies. His skillful turn inside was wonderful in itself but to cap it off with a dinked goal was majestic and it was a relief that he scored the goal and not Romelu Lukaku. It was quite a feeling knowing we had won the game.
Late substitute Ademola Lookman changed the afternoon from a great one to a perfect one when he slotted through the legs of Bravo following a botched John Stones clearance and that was that. Nobody could even have dreamed of such a result before the game.
As we walked back to the car we questioned when we last performed so exquisitely. Beating Arsenal 3-0 in Roberto Martinez' first season sprung to mind but this performance was even better. I'd even go as far to say it was the best we played since we beat Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 at Elland Road on route to Wembley in 1995. We were just awesome. Can anyone tell me when we last played this well?
Now that's the standard. That's what we can do. The key now is to reach that level consistency.
Over to you Mr. Koeman.
Robles: Made good saves when he had too. A little ponderous with his distribution at times if I'm going to be critical but he played well. He certainly deserves to be in the team following his December introduction. He's generally done pretty well. 7
Baines: Did very well at wing back. 7
Funes Mori: A few hairy moments but overall he did pretty well. 7
Williams: A rock at the heart of defence. 8
Holgate: Did very well. 7
Coleman: Much more like it after his horror show last weekend. 7
Barry: Had an excellent game in the middle. 8
Davies: Man of the match. The discipline and fight he shows for a young player is quite remarkable. If he's not heading it off the line he's putting in a tackle or putting the ball in the net. A truly brilliant display. We have some player on our hands there. 9
Barkley: Did very well and got stuck in. 7
Mirallas: Had a brilliant game up front alongside Romelu Lukaku, making one and scoring one before being subbed. Surely just off the striker is his best position. 8
Lukaku: Was quite brilliant and carried the fight. 8
Schneiderlin (for Mirallas): Settled in quite nicely. 6
McCarthy (for Barry): Got stuck in. 6
Lookman (for Barkley): What a dream debut for the lad. A great finish. Great to see him hit the ground running. 7
Everton return to Premier League action this Sunday hoping to get back to winning ways following last weekend's disappointment against Leicester City.
The defeat to the struggling champions not only ended the Blues' hopes of ending the club's long wait for silverware, it also closed off an important avenue towards European qualification, putting the onus on a strong second half of the campaign to see if Ronald Koeman's team can close the gap on the top six.
Everton's current berth in seventh place could be enough depending on who ends up winning the domestic trophies but Koeman is hopeful of finishing higher and his frustration with the slow pace of action in the transfer market spilled over in his post-match reaction last Saturday.
Since then, of course, Morgan Schneiderlin has followed Ademola Lookman through the doors at Finch Farm and both could be named in the squad this weekend, adding some extra spice to what already promises to be an intriguing match-up.
There is no doubt that there was a widespread feeling of deflation after the cup exit, with some proclaiming the season to be over, but as Schneiderlin pointed out in his first press conference as a Blues player earlier today, things can change quickly, particularly if a team can put together a string of victories.
That has proved beyond Koeman's team since September, the last time they won successive fixtures in any competition, but the introduction of fresh blood to build on the improvement that looked to be occurring over the festive period offers hope that better performances are forthcoming.
Whether Schneiderlin makes his full debut remains to be seen. The Frenchman hasn't seen any competitive action since coming on as an 85th-minute substitute in Manchester United's 1-1 draw with Arsenal in mid-November but, as he explained after being unveiled as the Blues' new £24m signing yesterday, he has been working with a personal trainer and is confident he can play a part.
Should Koeman feel confident enough to deploy him from the start, it's possible the Dutchman might err on the side of caution and partner him with the more experienced Gareth Barry in central midfield rather than Tom Davies in Idrissa Gueye's absence.
Barry was the target of criticism from supporters for a poor display against Leicester but with City's midfield and attack boasting so much quality, the manager may choose to shield the more raw Davies and drop him back to the bench. James McCarthy has resumed full training but might not be risked so soon after recovering from a hamstring injury.
At the back, it is expected Koeman will revert to a traditional four-man defence, with Seamus Coleman moving back to his customary fullback role after starting last weekend's game in a more advanced wide role. Like McCarthy, goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg is also back in training but might have to wait another week as well.
Further forward, there will, no doubt, be the usual conundrum over which of Kevin Mirallas, Aaron Lennon, Gerard Deulofeu and Enner Valencia should get the nod to play off Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley, with none of that quartet able to find much consistency as of yet.
The visit of Pep Guardiola's title-chasing outfit, one that sees John Stones back at Goodison for the first time since he was sold for £47.5m last summer, represents a difficult challenge for the Blues, particularly as they will be expected to offer more going forward than they did at the Etihad Stadium in October when they ended City's 100% home record by eking out a 1-1 draw.
City have not been immune to inconsistency themselves this season, though, and after losing to Leicester and Liverpool over the past month, they sit in fourth place, seven points off the top of the Premier League.
They showed their attacking strengths, epitomised by the likes of Sergio Aguero and David Silva, by walloping West Ham 5-0 in the cup last Friday, however, recorded routine wins over Burnley and Hull either side of their defeat at Anfield and also saw off Arsenal at the Etihad before Christmas.
Though they went down meekly in this fixture last season under Roberto Martinez, this is usually the kind of fixture that Everton get fired up for and with the prospect of a Schneiderlin debut and the uplift from promising moves in the transfer market, hopefully Goodison will be bouncing at the prospect of claiming a scalp this weekend.
Any slips by the likes of United — they play Liverpool in the other half of Sky Sports' cringeworthy “Manchester vs Merseyside” billing — Arsenal or Spurs and an Everton win would already improve the chances of the Blues intensifying the fight to finish in the top six.
Kick-off: 1.30pm, Sunday 15 January, 2017
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Last Time: Everton 0 - 2 Manchester City
Predicted Line-up: Robles, Coleman, Williams, Funes Mori, Baines, Barry, Schneiderlin, Barkley, Mirallas, Valencia, Lukaku