Manchester City return from the international break with one thing in mind – return to winning ways.
The Citizens had seen their perfect start to the Premier League blighted with a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham two weeks ago and Pep Guardiola will be urging his charges not to allow the setback fester.
That may however be easier said – or wished as the case may be – than done, considering their opponents this weekend.
They’re up against a much improved Everton side who are fifth on the table, and continue to grow in confidence thanks to Guardiola’s former Barcelona teammate, Ronald Koeman.
Both managers were teammates under Bobby Robson at Barcelona in the 90’s and have gone on to become successful in their own right and just to tell you how close they were as players, Guardiola said: “I switched off the light before we went to sleep! When he needed water – wake up to get water for him. I was the youngest so I adapted to him.”
And Koeman couldn’t also forget the friendship he forged with his then teammate. Hear him: “I have all good memories of Pep. We have a really strong friendship. Sometimes we have time for dinner and to talk about football and to talk about life.”
But all that will count for nothing when the game begins, as the two managers try to outwit each other having learnt from the same school as this weekend’s clash presents a different challenge altogether as they are now on opposite ends, and it is the first time they will come head-to-head in the Premier League.
Talking of head-to-heads, it is one that Guardiola will hope continues, given that City are unbeaten against Everton in their last seven meetings, and could extend that to equal their longest unbeaten sequence against the Tofees which was set in 1982.
However, even the recent records may suggest City have been the far superior side, it isn’t exactly the case when the whole picture is looked at. Of the 166th game between both teams, City only have a slight advantage of 63 wins to Everton’s 61.
Guardiola isn’t carried away by the statistics, however, as he reckoned Koeman has done a good job since taking over at Goodison Park in the summer.
“Last season with Southampton he did great, he did an extraordinary job and they qualified for European competition. They (Everton) started really well this season as well,” said Guardiola of Koeman.
Also, John Stones, who quit Merseyside to join Guardiola at City this summer, will come face-to-face with his former teammates for the first time since leave Goodison Park. It could also be the same story for Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling, who could feature after returning from injuries.
And it is all these that Koeman is mindful of, as he faces his former teammate and friend.
“It is impressive the way City play football. It’s difficult to defend against but we have had some good examples of teams getting a good result against City,” Koeman said
There is however some good news for him and Everton, as Leighton Baines is available after a two-match absence with a hamstring strain, while Romelu Lukaku and Phil Jagielka have recovered from thigh problems and Darron Gibson is fit.