Liverpool refocus for derby date at Goodison

LONDON - Liverpool put their ongoing boardroom battles and courtroom capers to one side on Sunday with a city derby against neighbours Everton at Goodison Park.

The 18-times English champions have become a high-powered soap opera in recent weeks as American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks attempt to hold on to power at Anfield but on Sunday, for 90 minutes at least, the key players will be in red and blue rather than grey suits.

Liverpool and Everton have both had horrible starts to the new season, managing just six points each from seven games and while "relegation scrap" would be egging the script a little too much, the need for a win has never been greater.

Liverpool's last action before the international break was a home defeat by Blackpool, a result that left them in the relegation zone. Everton are only marginally better off, having climbed out of the bottom three with a win at Birmingham City.

Form books and logic go out of the window in Merseyside derbies and Sunday's looks almost impossible to call.

Liverpool will be without Dutchman Dirk Kuyt who was injured on international duty but manager Roy Hodgson is hoping striker Fernando Torres will be fit to kickstart his season.

The Spaniard has been subdued this so far this season and pulled out of the Spain squad with an adductor strain but he is winning his battle to be fit for Sunday.

"He has had intense treatment over the last 10 days and responded very well to that treatment," Liverpool's head of sports science and medicine Peter Brukner said on Wednesday.

"He's ready to resume training today and if we can build up his training and get through the next few days, then we are optimistic but not certain that he will be able to line up against Everton."

Everton have not beaten Liverpool in a league derby for four years although they did win an FA Cup replay last year against their arch rivals and will be confident after a morale-boosting victory over Birmingham.

Winger Leighton Baines said the Blues were buoyant.

"We've won our first game of the season and once that happens you want to get on a roll," Baines told Everton's website.

Before Sunday's business at Goodison Park, Chelsea will be aiming to consolidate first place in the Premier League when they visit Aston Villa on Saturday evening.

Third-placed Manchester United host sixth-placed West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal host Birmingham. Manchester City, riding high in second place, are at Blackpool on Sunday.

Chelsea could be without skipper John Terry who pulled out of the England squad with a back injury while they will definitely be without Yossi Benayoun who was ruled out for several months wih an Achilles problem.


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