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Manchester City a stern test but Everton have history on their side

The toughest of several stern early-season tests awaits Everton on Sunday with visitors Manchester City yet to concede and emphatically brushing aside West Brom and Chelsea in the first two matches.

Still, there is plenty of hope for a home team bossing this fixture for much of the last two decades.

The phrase "Everton at Goodison Park" often spells bad news for City. Four wins and a draw swing the last six Goodison meetings in the Toffees' favour, while 10 wins and five draws in the last 18 league meetings on this ground reinforces the home dominance.

One clean sheet in 20 league visits underlines the stranglehold this old stadium often has over the blue half of Manchester.

Yet the counterpoint to this position of strength is the individual record of manager Roberto Martinez. The picture painted by league encounters against City is entirely different to the one visible when a soon-to-be-relegated Wigan toppled their heavily favoured opponents at Wembley en route to lifting the FA Cup three seasons ago.

Martinez has yet to outfox this season's early pacesetters in the Premier League, with his winless run as manager following him from Wigan to Merseyside. The Blues' boss has won only two points in 12 league meetings against City, drawing two and losing 10.

To make it lucky 13, Martinez requires a repeat of the excellent team performance in the 3-0 win at Southampton. Team selection and shape are the focus areas. Arouna Kone has confounded critics with two lively and highly effective performances but there is a case for Seamus Coleman requiring greater defensive cover than that offered by Kone as a makeshift right-sided midfielder.

Much depends on whether the home side revert to the familiar possession-based style or maintain the counterattacking approach so effective against the Saints, though it is a decision potentially taken out of Martinez's hands. The likelihood is City seeing far more of the ball than the average visiting team this season. The quality of the away side may leave little option than soaking up pressure and striking on the break, something Everton perfected en route to three points last weekend.

While finding the best plan of attack and the means for consistent match-winning displays from Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku, there is also the far from simple task of stopping the ominous-looking attacking unit possessed by Manuel Pellegrini. David Silva is an assist machine and Sergio Aguero requires only a fraction of time and space to punish a defence, not to mention Yaya Toure and a certain £49 million acquisition from across Stanley Park, Raheem Sterling.

The Everton defence will need to be more Southampton, less Watford, and one player key to replicating the clean sheet of seven days ago is the much-discussed John Stones. It seems there is rarely an hour of the day without outside speculation over this future.

Chelsea duo and international teammates John Terry and Gary Cahill took the unprecedented approach of talking up a move for Stones in recent weeks, with the incredible irony being that Stones would displace both on current form.

Amid the varying views on what is best for the young defender and where his immediate future should lie, there is one person maintaining the level-headedness lacking elsewhere. Quietly going about the business of playing football, Stones has remained dignified and concentrated on the task of defending and helping Everton.

Until one uncharacteristically mistimed lunge leading to Watford's second goal in the opening day draw, the England defender shone brightest of those on either team. There is a regal authority to the defensive work of a player never flustered and rarely hurried, two qualities rare for an English defender at this level and at such a young age.

Composed on the ball though sometimes overly to the point errors began to creep in, those occasional mistakes are fading as Stones appears primarily focused on the basics of defending and he is a much better prospect for it.

As the transfer window moves toward its closing point, Stones is doing his talking on the pitch, leaving the politics to others.

Giving the impression of a player keeping Southampton out with the handbrake on, Stones will need to be at full throttle if Martinez is to break his league duck against City and so too will his teammates.