March 13, 2012 – 2000 GMT
The English Premier League table doesn’t make for a good reading if you’re from the red half of Merseyside, with city rivals Everton within striking distance of leapfrogging Liverpool and compounding the club’s misery on Tuesday night.
After having pumped in well over a £100 million in their squad over eight months leading up to the new season, Liverpool should be out of Everton’s sight; Everton have been running on virtually empty for nearly a decade and have had to break the bank to sign Croatian striker Nikica Jelavic from Rangers for £5.5 million in January. But the Reds aren’t out of sight and their splashing of money in the transfer market is looking like one of the worst financial mistakes ever.
Liverpool sit in a lowly 7th position on the back of 3 straight defeats – first such occurrence in over 9 years – and only two points ahead of their local city rivals. Everton, the usual late bloomers in the League, are on an unbeaten run of 9 matches that has seen them beat the likes of Manchester City and Tottenham at Goodison Park.
But this match may also be a personal duel between two Scottish managers, who are legends in their own rights, on the opposite halves of Merseyside. David Moyes is celebrating his 10-year anniversary at Everton this week and what better way could he do that but to get one over his Liverpool and Scottish counterpart Kenny Dalglish, who is being subject to hefty criticism for both his tactics and his pre-season purchases.
Often termed the ‘friendly derby’, Tuesday night will see a different level of spite between the two sets of supporters with major bragging rights at stake. If Everton power themselves above Liverpool in the League table, what consequences does that have in store for Kenny Dalglish?
Team News and Tactical Brief
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish and his players have come in for heavy criticism following the defeats to Arsenal and Sunderland. While the match against Arsenal was a performance that deserved luck and hinged on Liverpool’s ability to finish off chances, the performance at Sunderland was arguably their worst of the season – completely devoid of creativity and not an ounce of flair in their methods.
Apart from Lucas, who had been ruled out for the season late last year, Liverpool will still be missing Daniel Agger through cracked ribs suffered in the Wembley final. Glen Johnson is on his way back, while Gerrard had a late run out in the previous match.
The latest defeat has virtually guaranteed a spot for Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing in the Merseyside derby. While Liverpool’s record signing hasn’t started in three league matches, Stewart Downing was a shock absentee from the starting line-up at the Stadium of Light. Jordan Henderson, for reasons only known to Kenny Dalglish, has been among the manager’s favourite starters but after a poor performance by the young right midfielder against Sunderland, Dirk Kuyt is likely to occupy that position on Tuesday night.
Although Jay Spearing came out of the last match with a lot more credit than his midfield partner, Adam is likely to retain his place alongside Gerrard. Jamie Carragher’s experience will result in his inclusion in the line-up ahead of Sebastian Coates and a fit Glen Johnson should replace Martin Kelly at right back to give Liverpool an edge on the right flank.
We’re likely to see a better performance from Liverpool, since Gerrard will insert much more control in midfield than Charlie Adam and he’ll also have a variety of options to spray the ball around – either directly to Carroll, or to the wings, or short to the feet of Suarez. Luis Suarez will also find greater joy with more men flooding the box in a home game.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-4-2): Reina (GK); Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Enrique; Kuyt, Gerrard(c), Adam, Downing; Suarez, Carroll
David Moyes is currently the toast of Merseyside and can apparently do no wrong. His signing of Jelavic paid immediate dividends as he scored the winning goal against Tottenham on his full debut on Saturday evening. However, he might not get the nod to start in the feisty derby. Denis Stracqualursi is likely to lead the line alone up-front with Tim Cahill, who has a particular liking for scoring at Anfield, playing just behind him.
Everton’s defence has conceded just 28 goals, only two goals more than Liverpool’s defence, and has been their pillar of strength. Although Jagielka is fit and played a minor part in the match against Tottenham, Moyes will stick to the successful pairing of Heitinga and Distin in the centre. Baines and ex-Manchester United player Phil Neville shall endeavour to provide the necessary width down the flanks from full-back positions. There is also a bleak possibility of Hibbert playing at right-back and Neville manning the centre of midfield.
In midfield, Moyes will have a difficult and key choice to make. South African midfielder and loanee Steven Pienaar will be back in the line-up after being ineligible to play against Tottenham. In the absence of Darren Gibson, Fellaini’s partner is likely to be Leon Osman. The decision could hinge on whether Moyes would like to play Drenthe in the derby. If Drenthe doesn’t start, then Osman will feature on the right of midfield with Rodwell partnering Fellaini. Manager David Moyes has plenty of permutations to consider.
Everton will be looking to target set pieces and further test Liverpool’s aerial ability through wing play and crosses into the box. In Agger’s absence, Carragher and Coates haven’t looked solid – the former being exploited by an in-form Van Persie last time out at Anfield. Everton’s chances, though, rest on the creativity of their two little midfielders Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar to grab hold of the ball and work their way around a susceptible Liverpool midfield.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-4-1-1): Howard; Neville, Heitinga, Distin, Baines; Osman, Fellaini, Rodwell, Pienaar; Cahill; Stracqualursi
Key Match Facts
- Everton have drawn each of their last 3 away matches in the League and by a scoreline of 1-1.
- Liverpool and Everton have exactly the same shot accuracy (ratio of shots on target to shots attempted) of 41.1% in the League this season.
- Everton have conceded 2 more League goals (28) than Liverpool, but have scored 2 goals less (28).
- The Merseyside derby is the fixture that has seen more red cards than any other fixture in the Premier League.
TheHardTackle’s Player to Watch Out For
Nobody will feel the adrenaline rush of a local derby more than the Liverpool skipper, especially when Everton are a win away from leapfrogging the Reds in the League table. Gerrard has seen red cards galore over the years in matches such as these, but this time around, it is his calming presence that will be the one to watch out for. If he loses control of Liverpool’s midfield, Dalglish loses control of this match.
Liverpool 1-1 Everton
Liverpool’s home form and recent slump, combined with Everton’s unbeaten run, points to a stalemate at Anfield. Don’t be surprised if an Evertonian’s head or Suarez’s brilliance decides the match either way. The Liverpool striker, especially, has been due one piece of magic for a long time.
TheHardTackle’s Blast From The Past
A compilation of a heated derby at Anfield, a few years back.