Manuel Pellegrini Must Seize Last Chance for Important EPL Road Win at Everton

Phil Keidel@@PhilKeidelContributor IIApril 29, 2014

Pellegrini badly needs to get the better of Martinez in their upcoming chess match.
Pellegrini badly needs to get the better of Martinez in their upcoming chess match.Michael Steele/Getty Images

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini's chance to win the Premier League in his first season at the helm was saved for the moment by Chelsea's recent victory over Liverpool at Anfield.

Any realistic scenario that ends with Pellegrini lifting the Premier League trophy over his head on May 11 begins with a victory over Everton at Goodison Park in City's next match.

And that, of course, is the problem.

City's away record against the nine other clubs in the top half of the Premier League table this season is nothing special: three wins, three draws and two losses.

It is true that the two losses of those eight matches came away to Liverpool and to Chelsea. Neither of those losses was a great disgrace, but nor was either much of a credit.

Perhaps more troubling are where the wins came from. City beat Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Newcastle United away from home. All three of those clubs are in some degree of disarraytwo of them have changed managers this season, and scads of Toon supporters want Alan Pardew gone.

The three draws came against Stoke City, Southampton and Arsenal, three clubs that play very well at home, defend resolutely and rarely find the moment too big for them.

Three clubs who are in those ways a lot like Everton, who incidentally have won 13 times already at Goodison this season.

Admittedly there are no bad or unimportant road victories in the Premier League. With rare exceptions, taking three points on the road always comes tough.

But City's lack of a statement away victory in the league this season is the most glaring gap in their championship resume.

And as if all that were not enough, look at the mess Pellegrini inherited from the likes of Roberto Mancini and Mark Hughes (and handfuls of managers behind them):

The form above is why all of the negative indicators around Everton right now mean nothing to City's hopes of keeping their title quest viable at Goodison.

Everton are beyond unlikely to catch Arsenal for the league's last Champions League place. That means they are consigned to another Europa League appearance, which for a shallow squad like Everton is really far worse than missing out on Europe altogether.

Gareth Barry will not play against City for parent club-based reasons. Kevin Mirallas is out, and Sylvain Distin is at best a maybe. City is catching the Toffees at about as right a time as they could fairly ask.

Then you look at their history at Goodison Park, and you remember losing to goals from guys like Joleon Lescott (whatever happened to him?) and Darron Gibson. City have managed to lose in all the old familiar ways at Everton and in some unfamiliar ones, too.

The only hope for City is that Pellegrini was involved in none of that.

Pellegrini has signature road wins this season, but they came in the Champions League. Beating Bayern Munich at the Allianz was remarkable, although lately it is less so. The win at CSKA Moscow was meaningful because it all but guaranteed City's advancement to the knockout round.

So it seems harsh to say that the coming result against Everton will define Pellegrini's first season.

In context, though, it is quite hard to deny it.