Goodison Park, Liverpool
October 28, 2012; 13:30 CST
Derby Day – In a city obsessed with football the day holds about as much significance as Christmas or New Year’s Day. The streets of Liverpool bear a desolate look as every Liverpudlian hurries home or packs into the nearest bar as they wait for one of the most anticipated games in the year. A league game is worth only 3 points but this game is about so much more. The city will be split down the middle into Red and Blue halves as one of the fiercest rivalries in world football is set to be renewed this Sunday at Goodison Park. Everton take on Liverpool in the 219th Merseyside derby and this one promises to be just as memorable as the ones before it.
Everton finished above Liverpool last season and have made a strong start to this Premier League campaign. The Toffees have scored 15 points from 8 games this season and look like surprise contenders for one of the top 4 spots. Everton currently lie 4th in the league table and will be looking to get a victory over their old rivals as they stake their claim to the bragging rights in the city. David Moyes has managed to get 3 points just once in the last 11 fixtures against Liverpool and he will be looking desperately to correct that stat.
Liverpool had beaten Everton three times in a row last season and will be looking to extend that good run of form against their neighbours. After a difficult start to the league, Liverpool have now found some form as Rodgers’ brand of football takes shape. Liverpool have been unbeaten in their last 4 matches. They have managed to win 3 of those and have kept 3 successive clean sheets along the way. Everton are not going to be pushovers though, and The Reds will have their task cut out.
Team News and Tactical Brief
David Moyes’ side will be missing Steven Pienaar through suspension after the South African’s unlucky dismissal against QPR last week. Darren Gibson will be missing out through injury while Everton still sweat over the fitness of Marouane Fellaini and Tony Hibbert.
Fellaini in particular will be crucial to Everton’s hopes as the Belgium international has been in fine form after being deployed in an attacking midfield position this season by David Moyes. Everton will be expected to flood the midfield and make it as difficult as possible for Liverpool to implement their free flowing passing style.
Everton are expected to line-up in a 4-5-1 formation at Goodison Park on Sunday. Howard is expected to stand in goal while Heitinga and Jagielka are expected to keep Suarez and company at bay. Tony Hibbert will have the unenviable task of keeping Raheem Sterling in check at right back while Leighton Baines will look to push forward from the left back position and provide an attacking edge to Everton’s play.
Gary Neville and Leon Osman will be expected to shield the back four and stifle the Liverpool midfield. Marouane Fellaini will start in an attacking midfield position but will be expected to drop deeper to provide an extra body in midfield. The midfield battle will be crucial in this game and if Everton can unsettle the possession oriented approach of the Liverpool players then they would be in pole position to win this game. With Steven Pienaar out, Kevin Mirallas is expected to play on the left wing while Seamus Coleman will take his place on the opposite flank.
The wingers will be expected to stretch the play and provide crosses which the likes of Fellaini and Jelavic can attack. Playing furthest forward in this Everton team, Jelavic has already found the net 4 times this season and will be looking to pounce on any second balls from headers which Fellaini might win. The Croatian is a real predator in the box and will be sniffing around for any mistakes from the Liverpool back line.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-5-1): Howard; Hibbert, Jagielka, Heitinga, Baines; Coleman, Neville, Osman, Fellaini, Mirallas; Jelavic.
Pepe Reina is still a doubt for this game after picking up a hamstring injury last week. The Spanish international has resumed training this week and Rodgers could take a late call on his fitness before the game. Fabio Borini, Martin Kelly and Lucas Leiva remain long term absentees through injury. There are no suspensions for this game and Rodgers is expected to field a strong side for this encounter.
After the midweek game against Anzhi Makhachkala, Liverpool players could be facing a bit of fatigue but The Merseyside Derby would definitely provide enough motivation for the players to shrug off any feeling of soreness and tiredness.
Liverpool’s 4-3-3 system is starting to take shape with players getting more accustomed to their individual roles in the side. Pepe Reina should be back but in case he doesn’t, Brad Jones is expected to continue fill-in for Liverpool’s first choice in goal. Rodgers’ side has looked good defensively in the last three games and one would hope to see the same Liverpool back line against Everton as well. Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger are one of the best centre-back pairings in the league. Andre Wisdom has been a revelation since his debut and with Glen Johnson in such fine form on the left, Liverpool will definitely make life difficult for the Everton players.
The midfield will be crucial and Rodgers is expected to field the trio of Allen, Gerrard and Shelvey for this game. Gerrard has been playing well in a deeper position and his hunger and drive could be the key. The Liverpool captain will be expected to dictate play from the midfield and also make late runs into the box to finish off any attacking chances which might come his way.
Joe Allen has done an exemplary job as a makeshift defensive midfielder in Lucas’ absence but he will have a tough time on the pitch given Fellaini starts. The Belgian has a considerable height advantage against Allen and could be winning most of his headers against the diminutive Welshman. Rodgers will probably have to make adjustments as this could be one of the key battles which would decide the outcome of this match. Shelvey will be expected to play the No. 10 position and provide support to the attack with his surging runs and shooting from range.
Suarez will lead the line for Liverpool and will be flanked by academy graduates Raheem Sterling and Suso. However, Assaidi may also get a look in after his man of the match performance against Anzhi. Liverpool have been wasteful in front of goal and Suarez will be looking to improve his shooting after missing several opportunities to score against Reading last week.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Reina; Wisdom, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson; Allen, Gerrard, Shelvey; Suso, Suarez, Sterling
Players to watch
Marouane Fellaini (Everton)
The Belgian international has been used in a variety of positions by David Moyes since his arrival at Everton, but he now seems to have found his ideal position at attacking midfield. Fellaini has used his aerial prowess to great effect and has been a real threat in the Everton attacks. With the likes of Baines providing quality crosses from the deep for Fellaini to attack, the 6ft, 3 inch Everton midfielder may have some real joy against Liverpool.
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
Liverpool’s inspirational captain has a habit of coming alive in big games and the Merseyside Derby remains one of the biggest games in the season. Gerrard stunned the blues with a superb hat-trick last season and The Blues will be wary of his threat. After a sluggish start, Gerrard has started to play well as he adjusts his game to Rodgers’ style of football. Liverpool’s No.8 has put in some fine performances over recent weeks and he will be looking to get on the scoresheet against his old foes.
Prediction: Everton 1-2 Liverpool
This fixture has always been a volatile one with 6 more red cards being handed out than any other fixture in the league. Tensions will be high and players will be giving it their all on the pitch. Everton have only managed draws in their last two encounters while Liverpool look to be a side on the up. It would be quite futile to predict how this game would turn out on Sunday. Our guess is as good as yours but we go with a 1-2 away win to Liverpool.
Blast From The Past