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Everton Game Echoes 2012 Premier League Trip to Newcastle for Manchester City

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 27:  Yaya Toure of Manchester City celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Manchester City at Selhurst Park on April 27, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Rob PollardFeatured ColumnistMay 1, 2014

Saturday's trip to Everton is undoubtedly the biggest game of Manchester City's season so far.

After Liverpool's defeat at home to Chelsea last weekend and City's impressive win over Crystal Palace, Manuel Pellegrini stands on the brink of a Premier League title in his first season as City manager.

The task, in theory, is simple: Win their last three games, and they'll be crowned champions.

With home matches against Aston Villa and West Ham to follow, many will see the trip to Goodison as the one major obstacle standing between City and their second league title in three years.

Everton still harbour hopes of a Champions League place, and even if that proves out of reach, they must fend Tottenham off in the race for a Europa League spot. They are in need of the points and have been outstanding this seasona new, expansive style of play introduced by Roberto Martinez has taken them to new heights.

It's a fixture weirdly reminiscent of City's trip to Newcastle two seasons ago during their title-winning campaign.

With a home game against QPR on the final day, and with goal difference set to see them claim the league, winning at St James' Park was thought to be pivotal.

Yaya Toure, so often the man for the big occasion, was the difference between the two sides that day, his two goals after being pushed further forward late in the game securing a 2-0 win that moved City to the brink of their first title in 44 years.

A repeat this weekend, almost two years to the day since that famous win, is every City fan's dream.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 22:  Yaya Toure of Manchester City celebrates scoring their second goal with Fernandinho of Manchester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Fulham at Etihad Stadium on March 22, 2014 in Manc
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Toure's importance has increased further since then, with his partnership with Fernandinho one of the strongest elements of their play. Indeed, when both Toure and Fernandinho have started together this season, City have only dropped points in five games, and they are both fit for this weekend's game.

The Ivorian was the Man of the Match in the win at Selhurst Park last time out after returning to fitness at a crucial juncture in City's season.

If they can recover David Silva too, and with Everton set to be without Gareth Barry, Sylvain Distin and Kevin Mirallas, City have rarely had a better chance of winning at their bogey ground.

Barry's omission due to the terms of his loan from City will hurt Everton the most. He's been crucial to their new system under Martinez, playing a deep-lying passing role few English players are capable of. He brings calm and control to a midfield blessed with technique and intent, with his intelligence the key to it functioning.

Manchester City have only topped the Premier League table for four full days this season. 20th August, 30th-31st January and 1st February.

— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) May 1, 2014

Manchester City could win the Premier League by being top for five days all season. Adage about peaking at the right time ringing true.

— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) May 1, 2014


LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 27:  Edin Dzeko of Manchester City celebrates scoring the opening goal with Samir Nasri of Manchester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Manchester City at Selhurst Park on April 27, 2014 in Lo
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Of course, winning the league is far from a done deal if City beat Everton, but they will truly start to believe if they emerge from Goodison with three points.

Memories of 2012, where they beat Newcastle but then almost conspired to throw it away against QPR, will be fresh in the minds of all those involved and a determination to remain focused and professional will be key to the final three games.

One more away win at a ground they have perennially struggled with will leave them with two very winnable home matches to take the title on goal difference.

The magnitude of this match cannot be underestimated.

 

Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here: @RobPollard_.

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