Manuel Pellegrini will be relying on Edin Dzeko (above) to bring in the goals in Manchester City's last three matches. – EPA Photo
AS the Premiership moves into its penultimate weekend, en route to a climactic end, the focus has shifted to Goodison Park, where not only will the supporters of the home team be cheering Everton on, but also the fans of City’s rivals Liverpool and Chelsea.
Such is the nature of the league this season, that with just two games to go for most of the teams, any of the top three sides could yet lift the silverware next Sunday.
For many a pundit, the developments at Everton on Saturday could well determine where the new home of the trophy will be, given that Manchester United are destined to finish in sixth or seventh place.
The bookmakers are torn between Liverpool and Manchester City – Everton’s opposition on Saturday and the only team of the top three with three fixtures yet to play. As things stand, the Citizens are three points behind Liverpool and one adrift of Chelsea, but with that game in hand over both.
Should Chelsea see off Norwich as expected in an earlier fixture on Saturday, and Manuel Pellegrini’s side leave Goodison Park with maximum points from the late kick-off, then Liverpool would find themselves in third place. The Reds do not return to action until Monday night at Crystal Palace.
But Liverpool won’t mind that – not if Everton can get a result. A draw or win for the Toffees would seriously derail City’s bid for a second league title in three years, and that after their aspirations were revived last weekend when Chelsea delivered the Reds a hammer blow at Anfield, of all places.
Indeed, many have it that City’s tough away game to Everton and a congested fixtures list is what is working against them at this late stage in the campaign.
The Etihad side come up against Aston Villa on Wednesday and round off their campaign against West Ham next Sunday, which in effect means their last three matches are to be played in the space of just eight days.
This is a demanding task for any side, never mind one with a real shot at the title.
All the same time, Pellegrini will approach the Everton game with nothing but a plan to win and maintain their pursuit for the crown. In that respect, he will look to have Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero up front, Yaya Toure and Fernandinho in midfield, Pablo Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany in defence, and Joe Hart in goal.
In the absence of the injured David Silva, a little more than usual pressure will fall on the shoulders of Toure. The Ivorian has been instrumental in his contribution to the challenge for the title. And despite carrying a niggling injury of his own, he will want to continue in that vein, more so as the season enters its final week and the title is within grasp.
Shaun Orange thinks City will overcome Everton after a bruising battle and then do the same against Aston Villa to set up a grand finale next weekend.