Man City make light work of Everton, can clinch title in Manchester derby
LIVERPOOL, England -- Three thoughts from Goodison Park on Manchester City's 3-1 win over Everton in the Premier League.
1. Man City right back to business
Pep Guardiola can clinch his first Premier League title with a victory in next week's Manchester derby after Manchester City's thoroughly comprehensive victory over Everton.
Normal service was resumed at Goodison Park, as City picked up where they left off after a three-week break without a fixture to maintain their 16-point lead at the top.
The result was never in doubt after Leroy Sane smashed in a fourth-minute volley. Gabriel Jesus headed in a second eight minutes later before Raheem Sterling tucked in a third in the 37th minute.
The victory now means that City are only the third club to beat all other teams in a single Premier League season, following in the footsteps of Chelsea in 2005-06 and Manchester United in 2010-11. Guardiola has now beaten every team in the Premier League during his 22 months in charge after three failed attempts against the Toffees.
His former Barcelona teammate Ronald Koeman was in charge on each of those occasions with the incredible 4-0 victory in last season's clash equalling Guardiola's worst ever defeat as a manager. Back then, the Dutchman had Ross Barkley pulling the strings in midfield and Romelu Lukaku bullying City's defence, but there was no such threat this time around.
Like so many teams before them, City simply passed the ball around them with ease, opening them up at will and controlling the tempo of the game. For the opening goal, David Silva ghosted unmarked into the box and clipped a simple ball back for Sane to smash into the net.
Yannick Bolaise wasted Everton's best chance on 11 minutes when he headed over from inside the six-yard box and Ederson immediately launched a ruthless counterattack that 10 seconds later saw Gabriel Jesus head in Kevin De Bruyne's cross.
City broke quickly again for the third, Silva laying a beautiful pass into the path of Sterling as the game drifted into a training exercise for the remainder of the match.
Despite their dominance though, they couldn't add to their three goals and Bolasie at least gave the home fans something cheer about when he fired a low drive in off the post from 20 yards in the second half.
2. Perfect preparation
The next 10 days represent arguably the biggest in the club's history, with the two legs of their Champions League quarterfinal against Liverpool either side of a potential title-clinching Manchester derby.
And while the Reds needed an 84th-minute winner from Mohamed Salah to get a win at relegation-threatened Crystal Palace, City could hardly have had a more perfect warm-up for their return trip to Merseyside for the first leg in four days' time.
"We have to know, everybody has to know, that we [have to be] in our best levels," Guardiola said in the buildup to the game, and his players certainly took on his advice. There were no signs of rustiness from their lengthy time away; many looked refreshed and improved after their break, which included a short trip to Abu Dhabi.
Striker Jesus has not been in his best form recently, scoring only three times since the opening 10 games of the season. But after his midweek goal for Brazil in the 1-0 win over Germany on Tuesday, he looked lively and confident, and fully deserved his goal.
David Silva set up two goals and the Spaniard looks sharp and determined to try to fulfil his "dream" of landing the Champions League while Sterling and De Bruyne simply picked up where they left off and were even able to rest up long before the final whistle.
Sergio Aguero didn't make the matchday squad, although Guardiola insists he is doing "much, much better" after a knee injury, and the Argentine may have been rested with one eye on Wednesday's first leg at Anfield.
The one concern may be that Fabian Delph was also left out and January signing Aymeric Laporte was given a start at left-back with Benjamin Mendy still fighting his way back to fitness.
Laporte was never troubled despite being matched up with the speedy Theo Walcott, although he won't be given such an easy time in a frantic clash at Liverpool. But he and City could hardly have had a better buildup to that game here.
3. Big Sam's big problem
It increasingly seems that Sam Allardyce will be jettisoned at the end of the season after securing his target of keeping Everton out of relegation trouble.
The Everton fans aren't enamoured with his style of play despite its effectiveness, with Allardyce moving his side comfortably into the top half of the table and 12 points clear of relegation trouble.
The former England manager went on a charm offensive in his programme, speaking about being more attacking in the final games of the season
A victory over runaway leaders Man City, followed by a long-overdue win against Liverpool in the Merseyside derby could yet convince the Toffees that Allardyce is the man to take the club forward.
He picked an attacking lineup, and it went badly wrong. It's a constant dilemma for opposing managers to know whether or not to take the game to Guardiola's City, but Everton simply weren't good enough to cause them any problems.
A front three of Bolasie, Cenk Tosun and Theo Walcott with the lightweight Dominic Calvert-Lewin behind looked utterly disjointed.
That left Wayne Rooney and Morgan Schneiderlin screening the back four, and that duo had neither the pace nor the capability to cope with City's guile and movement, with the former getting the hook just 12 minutes into the second half.
It meant that Everton's defence consisting of a fragile Michael Keane and Phil Jagielka were horribly exposed and unable to stop the visitors from cutting them open.
Everton improved with the energy of young Tom Davies and he had a big hand in Everton pulling a goal back but by then it was far too late.
Allardyce had nothing to lose before the game, but his gamble didn't pay off and his side were booed off after having just 18 percent of possession in the first half. Unfortunately, at times, it looked like an old-fashioned coach facing a new brand of football.
Jonathan is ESPN FC's Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.