The ‘friendly derby’ that has actually seen more red cards than any other Premier League fixture.
It would be harsh to say that the wheels are coming off Everton
’s season, but there’s scope to pay close attention to a loose bearing. Successive goalless draws against Spurs and Crystal Palace, the latter a particularly insipid offering, have provided the first test of Roberto Martinez’s thus-far excellent start in the Goodison Park dugout.
- Palace 0-0 Everton (Prem)
- Everton 0-0 Spurs (Prem)
- Villa 0-2 Everton (Prem)
- Everton 2-1 Hull (Prem)
- Man City 3-1 Everton (Prem)
- Liverpool 4-0 Fulham (Prem)
- Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool (Prem)
- Liverpool 4-1 WBA (Prem)
- Newcastle 2-2 Liverpool (Prem)
- Liverpool 3-1 Palace (Prem)
Both defence and midfield have solid looks to them: the improving James McCarthy and Gareth Barry provide centre-back protection, with Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas the flair from either wing. Yet, if on-loan totem Romelu Lukaku falls short in his weekly interpretation of a human battering ram, the Toffees lack penetration, especially with the out-of-form Nikica Jelavic’s goal drought extending to mid-March.
Their Stanley Park neighbours’ problems are a mirror image: no problems up front, issues further back. We’ve been here before with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, but Liverpool
fans will be even more excited to see Philippe Coutinho back in Red, even if the waspish Brazilian is to be shoehorned down the left. That said, Everton’s back four won’t be anywhere near as accommodating as Fulham.
Curiously for a team who sit second, boss Brendan Rodgers doesn’t seem to know who forms his first-choice centre-back pair. All of Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Mamadou Sakho and Kolo Toure have legitimate claims to start, yet the Ivorian didn’t even make the bench against Fulham. Flitting between a back three and four, the 4-0 shellacking of the Cottagers was Liverpool’s first league clean sheet since beating Manchester United 1-0 on September 1.
The biggest hope for the game, though? That the poison, toxicity and general rancour between both sets of fans evaporates. The days of friend and foe sitting side by side are diminishing fast…
Assuming all players report to training fresh from the international break, Everton will have no new injury worries and may even have Antolin Alcaraz back in the squad from injury.
Key battle: Phil Jagielka vs Luis Suarez
Last time out, these two had very little in the way of physical exertion against fairly timid opposition – Jagielka didn’t have to make a single tackle in 90 minutes against Palace – but this should be a mouth-watering battle. All physique and Yorkshire grit, the former Sheffield United defender has the know-how to stop the Uruguayan magician’s Houdini escapisms.
Barely out of third gear against Fulham, Suarez’s two goals served further notice of his brilliance. If Everton are to win their first Merseyside derby since October 2010, he must be tamed.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- L'pool 0-0 Everton (Prem, May 13)
- Everton 2-2 L'pool (Prem, Oct 12)
- L'pool 2-1 Everton (FAC, Apr 12)
- L'pool 3-0 Everton (Prem, Mar 12)
- Everton 0-2 L'pool (Prem, Oct 11)
There will be much shared history in both dugouts on Saturday lunchtime. The two principal architects behind the Swansea success story, both Rodgers and Martinez were interviewed for the Liverpool job in the summer of 2012.
In five meetings between the pair Martinez is yet to win, a 2011/12 Premier League draw between Swansea and Wigan the Spaniard’s only point. Confirmed football aesthetes, it should be a possession-hungry encounter built on short passes.
Facts and figures
Tips and trends
- Everton have scored first in 9 out of 11 home matches.
- Everton have lost just once in 6 games when hosting top-six sides at Goodison Park, and along with Southampton have lost the fewest games in the Premier League so far (1).
- Everton are draw specialists with 5 already this season, and 4 in their last 10 in Merseyside derbies.
- Liverpool possess 2 of the 3 joint-leading Premier League scorers in Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez.
- As a result there have been at least 3 goals in 15 of Liverpool’s previous 18 away games with 9 of their last 13 providing 4 or more.
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