Everton is a football club and fanbase in limbo as we await the verdict of the appeal against the points deduction that has overshadowed this season.
The decision, slated for mid-February and so expected imminently, will have a greater impact on the campaign than any football match can. With a second case looming it will not end the uncertainty - it will be months before the Premier League table can be trusted.
But it will at least provide a surer foundation upon which to build Everton’s fight against relegation and, should the deduction be reduced, offer a much-needed points boost at a time when Sean Dyche’s side has gone two months without a league win.
That backdrop conspired to make defeat at the Etihad feel like a sideshow on Saturday.
Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer hit out at Everton points deduction 'mess' as appeal verdict imminent
Everton points deduction fallout has left the Premier League devastated, reeling and embarrassed
There may be no free hits and Everton held out better than most - denying Manchester City a shot on target for 71 minutes is some feat and there were genuine positives Dyche could take despite the result.
Yet from the press box to the stands to social media, conversations before and after were dominated by the pending outcome of a battle between barristers heard behind closed doors, not Erling Haaland and a sickeningly expensive bench eventually unpicking Everton with enough inevitably to suggest attempts to protect competition have already failed.
What was new was the sight of an Everton dugout without the banned Dyche stalking the officials, bellowing and gesturing to his players and reacting with disdain at the decisions going against his team. If the fourth official thought he wouldRead on liverpoolecho.co.uk