What to watch: All eyes on Haaland as Manchester City face struggling Everton

The looming shadow of football icon Pele’s passing will hover as the Premier League, La Liga and Ligue One prepare for another week of hectic action.

One of the matches to keep an eye out for this week has to be Manchester City taking on Everton on New Year’s Eve. It’s a fairly predictable tie but it’s worth keeping tabs on due to the presence of one man – Erling Braut Haaland.

The Premier League, often considered to be one of the most difficult leagues to succeed in, has been a cakewalk for Haaland. Every time he laces up his boots and lines up for Manchester City, he breaks records. In the midweek against Leeds, he became the fastest player to score 20 goals in the Premier League after he completed a brace at Elland Road. He also surpassed his father Alfie Haaland’s entire Premier League goal tally (18), that too against his father’s former club, in the city Haaland was born. The stars were well and truly aligned.

Everton boss Frank Lampard, however, will hope to put the brakes on the onslaught. Although with Everton’s patchy defensive records, the chances of that happening look bleak at best. Lampard’s job is hanging by a thread after losing to relegation-threatened Wolves on Boxing Day and the midweek fixture against Brighton might be his last chance to prolong his stint at Goodison Park. If, somehow, Everton pull off a New Year miracle by beating Manchester City, it’ll give him some cushion.

Right before the World Cup break, Brentford showed that City can be beaten with a properly laid out plan. They suffocated City’s attack and nullified Haaland, who was starved for chances. Their striker Ivan Toney would score a brace, with one of his goals coming in the 98th minute to seal a shocking 1-2 win for the Bees at the Etihad. That result ended the defending champions’ 16-match winning streak at their home.

Everton though lack an attacking threat upfront to score goals even with the talents of Neal Maupay, Demarai Gray and rising star Anthony Gordon. With Kyle Walker, John Stones, Aymeric Laporte and Joao Cancelo likely to start in City’s defence, the Toffees will have to move a mountain if they want to breach that fortress.

So, their best chance is to keep possession and defend well in their final third. They have a decent enough goalie in Jordan Pickford and will have Conor Coady and James Tarkowski in defence which might not be enough for a win but on a lucky day, might just lead to a draw. It’s difficult but the Premier League has sprung surprises far unlikelier than this in the past.

But it again boils down to a certain Norwegian giant, who will be lining up in City gear and how Everton’s backline copes against him. And he will be getting services from the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden. Not to mention that Jack Grealish and Ilkay Gundogan will come off the bench. That’s a treasure trove of attacking talent at Pep Guardiola’s disposal. It’ll be interesting to see if Everton can make it a happy end of the year for Lampard or if City continue their march to claim the top spot from an excellent Arsenal.

Manchester City vs Everton takes place at 8.30 PM, Saturday.

Other matches to watch out for:

Liverpool vs Leicester City (Saturday 1.30 AM)

Brighton vs Arsenal (Saturday 11 PM)

Real Valladolid vs Real Madrid (Saturday 2 AM)

Barcelona vs Espanyol (Saturday, 6.30 PM)

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