Goodison Park, Liverpool
November 23, 2013; 12:45 GMT
It may not be the biggest game of the season (yet) as far as the title race is concerned, but it surely is the biggest game of the season in Liverpool. After two weeks of friendlies and pulsating World Cup qualifiers, normal service resumes as Premier League takes centre stage once again.
Second-placed Liverpool take the short 10 minute walk across to Stanley Park in Saturday’s lunchtime kickoff. They take on Everton side whose transition from one long-serving manager has been overshadowed this season by former manager David Moyes’ teething troubles at Old Trafford. Brendan Rodgers received a baptism by fire in terms of Merseyside derbies in October 2012; but this time, the shoe is on the other foot as Roberto Martinez aims to guide the Toffees to victory over their archrivals for the first time in 3 years.
Team News and Tactics
Roberto Martinez is currently ushering in his own brand of a revolution on the blue half of Merseyside, this season. The former Swansea and Wigan manager has inherited a gritty squad of players from the long serving David Moyes, and has set about tweaking the side with the aim of playing a more expansive brand of football. Usually slow starters, Everton have made a steady start to their season thus far under new management, sitting in sixth place, behind Manchester United on goal difference.
Martinez knows what his best team is, this season. Manchester City loanee Gareth Barry has featured prominently in his plans; as has Chelsea loanee Romelu Lukaku. He hasn’t been afraid to give Ross Barkley more game time, and is expected to bring him back to the starting lineup against Liverpool. Leon Osman, however, may give the manager something to think about, given his experience. One can expect to see Gerard Deulofeu feature on the left wing in the second half, depending on Brendan Rodgers’ choice at right back; but the rest of the starting lineup could feature the usual suspects.
Darron Gibson is the Toffees’ sole long term injury casualty. Kevin Mirallas and Romelu Lukaku endured a disappointing international break with their Liverpool counterpart Simon Mignolet; while Leighton Baines’ failure to prevent Alexis Sanchez scoring from a header garnered negative publicity for the left back.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; McCarthy, Barry; Mirallas, Barkley, Pienaar; Lukaku
Preparation for this game has not been ideal thanks to the involvement of key players on international duty with mixed success. The likes of Simon Mignolet, Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard endured a disappointing run of results – with all three players involved in back-to-back losses at home. On the other hand, Mamadou Sakho and Luis Suarez, on the other hand, played no small part in ensuring France and Uruguay qualified for the big dance in Brazil.
Jose Enrique has featured in just 2 out of Liverpool’s last 5 League games due to injury, and Brendan Rodgers’ disclosed that he will require surgery for a nagging knee problem has ensured that he will miss an unspecified amount of time, starting with the Merseyside derby. Kolo Toure is said to be nursing a muscle injury, while Iago Aspas is not expected to return until December. Given Liverpool’s issues in both full back positions this season, Brendan Rodgers’ is faced with a choice of throwing either Aly Cissokho or John Flanagan into the deep end against either Steven Pienaar or Kevin Mirallas. That being said, the Reds are leaving no stone unturned in their quest to attain full points from this fixture – owner John W Henry’s private jet is being used to bring Luis Suarez back to Liverpool as early as possible, to ensure adequate rest for the Uruguayan.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Mignolet; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Cissokho; Lucas, Gerrard, Henderson, Coutinho; Sturridge, Suarez
- Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez have scored 16 out of 21 goals scored by Liverpool this season in the Premier League.
- Everton are undefeated in their last 14 home matches in the Premier League.
Player to Watch
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
Liverpool’s Captain Fantastic had to take painkilling injections in order to play the friendly against Germany at Wembley; but it didn’t help as England slumped to a 1-0 defeat to a second-string German eleven. However, one can trust Gerrard to be at full tilt on Saturday, given that this is a derby fixture. He was once substituted by Rafa Benitez because he was ‘playing with too much emotion’; but an older and wiser Gerrard will be better placed to influence the game in a positive way this time around. As against Fulham two weeks ago, expect the Reds to thrive if the captain is in full flow.
Everton 2-2 Liverpool
Liverpool have not won either League game this season that has taken place after an international break. It will not be a huge surprise if this trend continues, given key players’ exertions during their travels with their native countries.
The international break, however, is the same for everyone. As many as 8 players who are likely to feature for the Toffees had featured in friendly games for their national teams during the international break. There will be no lack of effort or lethargy on show, however, given the emotion associated. Expect a relatively high scoring game, with moments of great skill combined with individual errors that could prove vital.
Blast from the Past
Have a look at the highlights of the 2-2 draw between Everton and Liverpool that took place in October 2012. One can expect a similarly entertaining game on Saturday.