Two very good teams will face off at the Theater of Dreams this coming Wednesday and bring with them two very contrasting storylines.
Manchester United have limped out of the gates this season after saying farewell to longtime manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. Everton, on the other hand, have started spectacularly well. The Toffees defeated Chelsea at home at the beginning of the season and held Liverpool to a fantastic 3-3 draw in the Merseyside Derby two weeks back.
The biggest storyline in this game will be the return of former Everton and current Manchester United manager David Moyes, who has had a rough start to his career with the Red Devils. On the other side, Roberto Martinez has had a fantastic start to his first campaign as Everton manager after joining from Wigan Athletic this summer.
Both teams match up almost exactly on the stat sheet. They each maintain about the same amount of possession and complete roughly the same percentage of passes.
What this game will come down to is defense and which team can hold a lead. Each team has shown that they can score early or tie a game quickly, but are also prone to giving up a lead. Manchester United went ahead of Cardiff City twice in their 2-2 draw, only to let the home side pull a goal back each time. Similarly, in their 2-2 draw against Tottenham last weekend, United were able to respond after going a goal down twice on the road.
As for Everton, they were able to fight back against Liverpool, and almost won the derby had Daniel Sturridge not bagged an 89th-minute equalizer. On the other hand, after going a goal up against Manchester City, Everton gave up three goals almost immediately and eventually lost 3-1.
Both teams will have to start fast if they hope to secure three points. Manchester United will have home-field advantage, but that is about it.
Key players to watch for Everton: leading goalscorer Romelu Lukaku, leading assist maker Kevin Mirallas, and defender and set-piece extraordinaire Leighton Baines.
Key players to watch for United: leading goalscorer and creator Wayne Rooney, the always dangerous Robin van Persie, and underrated playmaker Shinji Kagawa.