The FourFourTwo Preview: Everton vs Liverpool
The Merseyside derby, and the final one involving Steven Gerrard. Oof! Grr. Aargh. Yelp!
- Palace 0-1 Everton (Prem)
- Everton 0-0 WBA (Prem)
- West Ham p2-2 Everton (FAC)
- Everton 1-1 Man City (Prem)
- Everton 1-1 West Ham (FAC)
- Bolton 1-2 Liverpool (FAC)
- Liverpool 2-0 West Ham (Prem)
- Chelsea e1-0 Liverpool (LC)
- Liverpool 0-0 Bolton (FAC)
- Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea (LC)
Yes, it’s the last Mersey melee for Stevie G, barring a shock move to Everton in the summer. Will the 34-year-old approach the match as if it was any other, leading the side with his usual calm and debonair demeanour? What do you think?
When it comes to derbies, form goes out of the window and all that, but Liverpool have every reason to be confident. The Reds are unbeaten over 90 minutes since their 3-0 defeat to Manchester United way back in December.
They’ve played 13 games since then, and while it hasn’t always been convincing (throwing away a two-goal lead against Leicester, scraping past AFC Wimbledon, losing to Chelsea in extra-time, leaving it late against Bolton), they’ve built up a good run of results.
Everton recorded a much-needed victory (their first in seven weeks) against Crystal Palace last weekend, recovering from the disappointment of failing to find a deserved winner against West Bromwich Albion, but this match is a different cauldron of carp.
Given the Toffees have finished above Liverpool in the table twice since, it’s been an oddly protracted time since the blue half were last victorious in the derby: October 17, 2010 to be exact, some 10 meetings ago.
Seven Everton players remain after playing in their 2-0 win that day – Yakubu not among them, sadly – but only three from a Liverpool side that included the easily-forgotten Paul Konchesky, the very easily-forgotten Sotirios Kyrgiakos and one of the greatest players in the world, Milan Jovanovic.
Roberto Martinez says his squad is “well balanced” following the January window, but with the only first team amendments being Aaron Lennon in and Samuel Eto’o out, that’s up for debate (even if Lennon is “at the peak of his powers”, which might require “citation needed” in the Hansard minutes).
Everton’s eggs were always in one basket when nearly their entire transfer budget went on Romelu Lukaku, but with Eto’o gone, their only other natural striker is Arouna Kone.
They even let three young strikers out of the door in Hallam Hope, Conor McAleny and Chris Long (the latter two on loan). Martinez insists Steven Naismith and Kevin Mirallas are capable in that position, but even so, FFT isn’t really seeing a “well balanced” squad. Liverpool will be looking to exploit that in the name of Steven George Gerrard. 7th plays 12th it may be, but this game has a lot riding on it.
Tim Howard is nearing a return and could even play this weekend. Martinez says: “The medical advice is to give him another week”, but if ongoing attitudes towards head injuries in the game have taught us anything, it’s that football doesn’t really care for medical advice. Howard feels “strong and ready” – that’s all that matters.
Elsewhere in the Everton physio room, James McCarthy will be in the squad after recovering from a hamstring injury, but probably on the bench. Leon Osman, Steven Pienaar and Tony Hibbert are all confirmed absentees.
For Liverpool, Daniel Sturridge is expected to start on the bench, Lazar Markovic faces a late test on his back and there are questions over Brad Jones (what’s new, etc etc). Kolo Toure is still at the Africa Cup of Nations; Jon Flanagan is missing presumed dead; Jordan Rossiter isn’t a real person.
Key battle: Steven Naismith vs Emre Can
Can has grown into his role on the right of Liverpool’s back three, doing his defensive duties without drama and showing ambition on the ball. Against Sunderland, for example, he took on players, created a couple of chances and found a team-mate with 47 of his 51 passes – the majority of them in the opposition half – but he also made 3 defensive clearances and won the ball back on 8 occasions.
Meanwhile, Naismith doesn’t really have a fixed position, sometimes starting in the middle, sometimes on the left and sometimes – you’ll be surprised to hear – on the right, but he’s most likely to be taking on Can. He could pose a threat, too. On top of a lot of defensive work, the Scot creates chances, wins fouls and pops up with vital goals. His performance against Palace showed that – even if he did lose 11 of his 14 aerial duels...
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- L’pool 1-1 Everton (PL, Sep 14)
- L'pool 4-0 Everton (PL, Jan 14)
- Everton 3-3 L'pool (PL, Nov 13)
- L'pool 0-0 Everton (PL, May 13)
- Everton 2-2 L'pool (PL, Oct 12)
Brendan Rodgers has talked up Philippe Coutinho, saying the Brazilian can emulate Luis Suarez at Liverpool (presumably by leaving?) and that “you would pay to watch the kid”. Well, yes, that’s the basic tenet of professional football. More entertaining is the promise from Martinez that he will track down and kill the photographer who made Lennon lean on an imaginary shelf and look grumpy in his Everton unveiling. Specifically Martinez said: “I will chase the photographer because I wasn’t happy at all”, but we can read between the lines.
Facts and figures
- Lukaku has scored 4 goals in his last 5 Premier League games against Liverpool.
- Liverpool have lost only 1 of their last 16 Merseyside derbies in the Premier League (W8 D7 L1).
- Gerrard has 5 goals and 2 assists in his last 6 Premier League appearances against the Toffees.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Anything can happen in this game, from a runaway Liverpool victory to a Phil Jagielka worldie. Expect goals. What the hell, 2-2.