Saturday, February 7 2014; 17:30 GMT
Goodison Park, Liverpool
Everton welcome local rivals Liverpool to Goodison Park in what could well be Steven Gerrard’s last Merseyside derby. Will he end his involvement in this rivalry on a winning note?
Team News and Tactical Brief
This time last year, Everton were within touching distance of a place in the Top 4 of the Premier League, despite losing a Merseyside derby to Liverpool 4-0. One year on, they desperately need 3 points to get themselves back into the top half of the table – arguably, even more than Liverpool, who are in the midst of a renewed Top 4 push themselves.
The Toffees have suffered through a number of injuries that have hit key players at various stages of the season. Goalkeeper Tim Howard continues to be sidelined, while James McCarthy was due to return to the playing field against Liverpool, but has had to pull out due to last minute troubles with his fitness. Manager Roberto Martinez has been forced to play Bosnian midfielder Muhamed Besic in midfield along with Gareth Barry, while John Stones has taken the place of veteran defender Sylvain Distin.
Martinez and Everton have received a late boost to their preparations for this game in the form of Deadline Day signing Aaron Lennon, on loan from Tottenham Hotspur. The former Leeds United winger was tipped for greatness when he joined Tottenham 10 years ago, but now finds himself looking for a fresh start to rejuvenate his career after Mauricio Pochettino’s preference for inverted wingers left him sidelined at White Hart Lane. Will Martinez throw him into the lion’s den on Saturday itself?
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Robles, Coleman, Jagielka, Stones, Baines, Besic, Barry, Mirallas, Barkley, Lennon, Lukaku
Liverpool go into this game on the back of an unbeaten run (at least in the Premier League) that stretches back to December 15, the day they lost at Manchester United. While Everton need 3 points more than Liverpool due to their lower placement in the league table, a win is an absolute must for Liverpool if they were to continue their push for a place in the Top 4 at the end of the season.
Brendan Rodgers will need to answer a few questions in choosing his starting lineup for this fixture. Will Lucas and Jordan Henderson both start for Liverpool, after being rested for the FA Cup Replay at Bolton Wanderers? Will Lazar Markovic be fit in time to make his Merseyside derby debut? Will Daniel Sturridge start his first game for Liverpool in 6 months? Will he go against the recent trend and start Steven Gerrard against the local rivals he has loved to score against in the past?
Speaking of Steven Gerrard, the Liverpool captain is slated to make his last appearance in a Merseyside derby in his long career. Brendan Rodgers recently claimed that Everton supporters would love to see the back of the Liverpool captain once he is gone; and it is a known fact that Gerrard steps up a gear when playing in a derby. On the other hand, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet looks like he is gaining a bit of confidence, thanks to 4 clean sheets in the last 6 games for Liverpool. He is yet to get back to the form that prompted Liverpool to spend all that money on him in the first place, but a more settled defence in recent times has resulted in him showing a fair amount of improvement in the New Year.
Probable Starting Lineup (3-4-3): Mignolet, Can, Skrtel, Sakho, Markovic, Henderson, Lucas, Moreno, Coutinho, Gerrard, Sterling
- Liverpool are undefeated in 9 matches against Everton in all competitions. they have not lost a derby game since 2010.
- Everton left back Leighton Baines has recorded 8 assists in the 2014-15 Premier League season. Only Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas has recorded more assists than him.
- Simon Mignolet has recorded 7 clean sheets in total for Liverpool this season – that is the same in number as Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea and Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart.
Player to watch out for
Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)
Six months have passed since Daniel Sturridge last started a game for Liverpool in the Premier League. Given all the problems Liverpool have faced in getting the best out of all the new players who joined the club last summer, his injury was a massive blow to Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool in their quest to retain their place in the Top 4. He scored in his first game back against West Ham United last Saturday, and could well be the missing piece in the puzzle Liverpool were trying to solve in how to score goals.