Writer: Gavin Cooper
Date:Saturday December 13 2008
City of Manchester Stadium
13th December 2008
For the first time in a few weeks City have had seven days off from a competitive match outside of international break time; will this time off have been used well.
Mark Hughes talks about the defensive aspect of City: "We've had some decent performances of late," says Mark, "but I've been particularly encouraged by the defensive performances. We've looked a lot stronger at the back after highlighting a few things to the players, they have worked on them and it's come to fruition.
"We always want to maintain the balance of the team, but we have wanted to stay strong at the back while retaining our attacking threat. It takes time, but I have seen signs over the last couple of weeks that our defensive side of our play has improved markedly."
He then goes on to talk about the intensity and frequency of the competitive games: "It`s not been very often. I think we`ve had two or three clear weeks [Monday-Friday] leading into the weekend. It doesn`t happen very often these days with European games it just seems like it`s been leading into the a game, prepare for a game, play it, recover and then you`re back into preparations very quickly for another game.
"So having a build up of work in regards to the opposition we`re going to face at on a weekend has been difficult this season. But hopefully now, with the European games coming to an end for a number of weeks, after next week we can then get a body of work into the players that will help them for the rest of the season."
City boss Hughes will wait before deciding on the fitness of striker Robinho but the former Blackburn manager hopes the Brazilian will have sufficiently recovered from an ankle injury to be able to start against Everton.
Defender Nedum Onuoha could feature after he came through a reserve match in midweek after a six-week lay-off with a leg muscle problem.
Micah Richards (ankle), Javier Garrido (achilles) and Gelson Fernandes (hamstring) are all doubtful as is Daniel Sturridge (virus).
Valeri Bojinov has returned to training along with Michael Johnson but both are a little off playing for the first team.
After being kicked to death by the thugish and unsporstsmanlike Manchester United a couple of weeks ago I am sure after a full weeks rest that Shaun will be up for this one.
The visitors could welcome back defender Tony Hibbert after he recovered from a thigh injury to train all week. The injury has restricted the 27-year-old to just four appearances in the league this season.
Everton are without Yakubu (Achilles) after the Nigerian was ruled out for the rest of the season while fellow striker Louis Saha could feature after his hamstring injury, picked up against Tottenham, was not as bad as first feared.
20-year-old striker James Vaughan (knee) is another frontman on the sidelines and is not expected back until January meaning Victor Anichebe should continue up front despite having to be substituted with an injury during the Villa match.
Defenders Lars Jacobsen (shoulder) and Nuno Valente (knee) are both out until after the New Year.
The Basque playmaker is the player that makes Everton tick; if you stop him playing you nearly completely nullify Everton's creativity.
Everton did the double over Manchester City for the third time in the Premier League last season, keeping clean sheets in both games.
The two teams have not had a draw in the premership at Maine Road or the City of Manchester Stadium.
Everton hold the slight edge in results in the premiership; but City hold a slight edge in the overall record.
Mark Halsey - this will be his second City match this season and Everton's third. He has only sent one player off this season and that was John Terry at City that was later and amazingly recinded.
Everton will always be hard working but I think at home City will offer a little bit too much for Everton to cope with and with their large forward injury list they do not have much to trouble us. MCFC 2 - 0 EFC.
Real Racing Santander on Thursday 18th December with a local kick off time of 20:45.
Date:Saturday December 13 2008
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