Pep impressed by toffees

Sergio Aguero, back in training, is set to return to the Manchester City line-up for their next game against Everton. The champions host the Toffees at the Etihad looking to return to the Premier League's summit after losing their unbeaten record las
Sergio Aguero, back in training, is set to return to the Manchester City line-up for their next game against Everton. The champions host the Toffees at the Etihad looking to return to the Premier League's summit after losing their unbeaten record last week.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

City boss generous with praise for Silva's Everton side as they eye return to the top

LONDON • The Christmas mood is being felt early at Manchester City, with manager Pep Guardiola lavishing praise on Everton, their opponents in the Premier League today.

The Toffees remain the only side to have played two league matches at City's Etihad Stadium against Guardiola and not lost, following two 1-1 draws.

The City boss, in a sky blue Christmas jumper at his pre-match press conference yesterday, said: "We make good games but we dropped four points (against Everton).

"Tomorrow is another game, the Everton team has changed completely with (Gylfi) Sigurdsson and Richarlison, Yerry Mina.

"They are a top side. I'm really impressed with how they have done so far. They played well not just at Liverpool (1-0 loss), but also at Chelsea (0-0 draw).

"Marco Silva's teams are always well-organised. We're going to speak today to discuss how we can attack them more fluently."

City are looking to bounce back following their first league defeat, 2-0 at Chelsea, the last time out. One point behind leaders Liverpool, the champions can claim top spot with a draw thanks to a better goal difference. The Reds, on 42 points, face Manchester United at Anfield tomorrow.

The statistics are looking good for City. They have not suffered consecutive league defeats since December 2016, when they lost to Chelsea and Leicester.

The possible return of playmaker Kevin de Bruyne and striker Sergio Aguero from injury, as Guardiola suggested yesterday, would be a boost for the team as well.

To add icing to the Christmas cake, the champions will also be buoyed by the fact they have won their last nine league games at home with an aggregate of 33-6.

Everton defender Michael Keane, however, believes that his team can beat City today.

"We will go to City with the belief we can cause them a lot of problems," he said on the club website.

"We have to believe we can win. There has been a lot of progress this season. If you compare us to last season, we are completely different.

"The manager has brought in brilliant players, the squad is a lot deeper and we are ready to compete at the top end. We just need to get over that hurdle of becoming one of the top-six sides and I think we will really kick on when we achieve that."

Everton manager Silva is feeling confident after avoiding defeat in five of their last six games.

"It's a good game for us to enjoy. To challenge a team like City will be tough but our players and team have shown they enjoy a game like this as well," he said at his pre-match conference yesterday.

British media also reported yesterday that City are eyeing a move for Leicester and England left-back Ben Chilwell after Guardiola's frustrations with Benjamin Mendy's injury problems.

The Spaniard, however, dismissed those claims during his conference, insisting that the club will not make any new signings in the January transfer window.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2018, with the headline 'Pep impressed by toffees'. Print Edition | Subscribe