By FOX SPORTS staff
The defending champions might be four spots above Everton, but anyone who expects this game to be a foregone conclusion should think again.
Marouane Fellaini led the way earlier in the season, bundling home his team's opener and giving Manchester City a tough time when the Toffees visited the Etihad Stadium.
Although Carlos Tevez equalized for City from a spot-kick, Roberto Mancini's team struggled to carve out clear-cut chances against an Everton side that battled from the first minute to the last. In fact, City would have come away with nothing had it not been for Joe Hart tipping Nikica Jelavic's 90th minute free kick behind.
Mancini has overseen just one victory in the last seven encounters with Everton. However, nothing less than a win will do this time if the Manchester side are to close in on their neighbours in the Premier League table. The Toffees will also be feeling the pressure as they need three points to bolster their hopes of qualifying for European competition.
Predicted starting XIs:
Everton: Mucha, Coleman, Baines, Heitinga, Distin, Gibson, Osman, Mirallas, Pienaar, Fellaini, Jelavic
Form guide: WLLDW
Man City: Hart, Zabaleta, Clichy, Kompany, Nastasic, Barry, Yaya Toure, Milner, Silva, Tevez, Dzeko
Form guide: WWLDD
Here are some of the key battles that could prove pivotal to the result of the game:
Johnny Heitinga & Sylvain Distin vs Edin Dzeko & Carlos Tevez
Sergio Aguero's form has been patchy this season, but Dzeko and Tevez have continued to deliver for the goods for Mancini. Despite their vastly different playing styles, both City forwards share a deadly instinct when it comes to finishing. Everton would do well to reduce the number of sniffs Dzeko and Tevez have at the goalmouth, as it often only takes a hairline crack in defence for either striker to pounce.
As a pairing, Dzeko and Tevez possess the perfect combination of mobility, power and height - traits that Heitinga and Distin will not find easy to deal with. However, the Everton central defenders are unlikely to approach this game any different from the rest and getting their basics right might just prove sufficient for them. Distin's heading ability should come in useful when nullifying the threat of Dzeko, while Heitinga will be expected to track Tevez's movement around the penalty area.
Leighton Baines & Steven Pienaar vs Pablo Zabaleta & James Milner
One of the most intriguing battles of this fixture will take place down the flank.
With 10 goals and nine assists in the Premier League between them, Baines and Pienaar are one of the most productive partnerships in Moyes' team. The former South African international is the closest thing Everton have to a playmaker and he has benefitted tremendously from the support given by a ball-playing defender like Baines.
Both players have an almost telepathic understanding of each other's movements, but will need to put on one of their best showings if they are to get the better of City's most hardworking duo.
Every team needs players willing to go the extra mile for their cause. Zabaleta and Milner are two such models who will run themselves into the ground for Mancini and City. The pair move up to aid the attack as quickly as they fall back to cover the space left behind and the City manager will be counting on them to turn in yet another industrious display in order to diminish the influence from Everton's left flank.
Leon Osman vs Yaya Toure
Intelligence and physicality rolled into one package, Yaya Toure's performance in the fixture will be inextricably linked to City's fate. The Ivorian's arsenal of rampaging runs and incisive through-passes has turned games City's way on several occasions, a factor which heightens the importance of Osman's display when he comes directly up against Toure in this one.
Although Osman hardly ever makes the headlines, the Englishman has been one of Moyes' most consistent performers since 2006. His resolve and diligence should serve him well in shadowing his 29-year old rival, while also recycling possession and building up play from his position in front of the defence.
Marouane Fellaini vs Vincent Kompany
Since his move up the pitch, Fellaini has become something of a talisman for Everton. With 12 goals under his belt this season, one of which came against City in the reverse fixture, the bushy-haired Belgian has proved more than a handful for the defences he has come up against.
Keeping Fellaini quiet would require a player strong enough to challenge him physically and possess the intelligence to read the Everton man's positioning in the game. City skipper Kompany seems a good bet to fulfil that role, but he has yet to recapture the form that saw him named Premier League Player of the Season last year. Furthermore, the former Hamburg defender has only just recovered from a calf injury that saw him miss an entire month of City's games, which would only serve to delay a return to his best