Everton desperately need strengthened midfield against Man City

Blues boss Sean Dyche will be keeping his fingers crossed that at least some of his absent midfielders can return by this weekend for the trip to the Etihad Stadium.

Everton FC v Aston Villa - Premier League
Everton FC v Aston Villa - Premier League / Visionhaus/GettyImages
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After consecutive draws against London opposition with a goalless stalemate away at Fulham followed by the two-all game with Spurs at Goodison Park last Saturday, Everton next travel to Manchester to face the champions on their patch.

And while two points from those matches is obviously better than one or none, the Toffees have keenly felt the absence of most of their first-choice midfielders over recent weeks.

Although Idrissa Gueye returned last weekend following Senegal's exit from the Africa Cup of Nations, it was still a patched-up side in the middle of the park.

In particular Everton have badly missed Abdoulye Doucoure who was again unable to play last weekend in the match against Tottenham.

Since he was first forced out of the team with a hamstring injury the Blues have struggled to score goals and have only recorded a single victory; the FA Cup fourth round replay win over Crystal Palace.

Doucoure is back training but wasn't ready to play last Saturday. However, he might if all goes well be available in five days time when the Toffees again face a lunchtime kick-off.

It is still a big ask though and even if he was fully fit he hasn't had much game-time and Dyche might feel it is still too early to risk his leading goalscorer against City.

Along with the Mali international, Dyche is also waiting on the fitness of two other midfielders both Andre Gomes and Amadou Onana.

Neither played at the Grand Old Lady against Spurs and both are still doubts, although Onana could be deemed fit enough to return to the side this weekend.

Facing the team that won the treble last season is tough enough, especially given Everton's terrible record against City in recent years.

Without Doucoure and possibly also Gomes and maybe Onana, it would be nigh impossible to imagine how the Blues can avoid another heavy defeat at the Etihad.