LIVERPOOL: Yaya Toure suggests Manchester City can forget about winning the Premier League this season if they fail to beat Everton this weekend.
The Ivorian veteran's assertion that City have no more room for error appears to be shared by his team-mates judging by the performances in their first two matches of 2017.
They overcame the sending off of Fernandinho -– his third in his last six appearances -– to beat Burnley 2-1 in the Premier League on January 2, then thrashed West Ham 5-0 in the FA Cup four days later.
Both displays showed significant improvement after a costly December, in which Pep Guardiola-managed City lost three times and fell seven points behind league leaders Chelsea.
In his title rallying cry to his teammates Toure said: "We can’t let the gap get any bigger between ourselves and the leaders, so we have to go to Everton and win if we’re to remain in the title race this season"
Having had nine days to recover from the West Ham game, City should be fresh for their trip to Goodison Park.
Winger Kevin de Bruyne has recovered from an illness that caused him to miss two training sessions this week, while defender Vincent Kompany is approaching fitness after almost two months out with a knee problem, the 35th injury setback of his eight-and-a-half-year City career.
'He is strong enough'
Guardiola may be reluctant to risk Kompany, given his injury record, meaning Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones are set to retain their places in central defence.
For Stones, it will be a first return to Goodison Park since leaving Everton to join City for £47.5million ($57.8mn, 54.4mn euros) in August.
The England international did not leave on the best of terms, pushing for a transfer 12 months after trying, and failing, to move to Chelsea.
Guardiola, though, is confident the defender can handle any barracking he receives from the home supporters on Sunday.
"Yeah, he is strong enough," Guardiola said.
"In those terms, I don't have doubts about that.
"I would like it that, when some players come back here, the fans of Manchester City respect the players playing for that club. I would like to feel that.
"But I'm not concerned about what Everton decide to do. Hopefully they can respect him.
"I know how John respects the club because they helped him to develop his performance and play in the Premier League."
New signing Gabriel Jesus, meanwhile, will not be involved despite arriving in England this week following his £28m move from Palmeiras.
The Brazil striker is not eligible to play because his international clearance has not come through in time.
Everton, by contrast, will have two new signings available for selection on Sunday.
Midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin completed a £24million transfer from Manchester United on Thursday, a week after 19-year-old forward Ademola Lookman arrived from League One club Charlton for £11million.
Manager Ronald Koeman made clear new signings were needed after his team were knocked out of the FA Cup last Saturday, losing 2-1 at home to fading champions Leicester.
Koeman is hopeful a £10.3million deal to buy Standard Liege’s Algerian forward Ishak Belfodil may be struck in the coming days, but nothing will be done in time for him to play against City.
Everton are seventh in the Premier League, three places and 12 points behind City, but remain desperately inconsistent; they have not managed to win two league matches in a row since September.