Liverpool look to carry on the momentum gained from their famous Europa League quarterfinal victory over Borussia Dortmund, while Everton will hope to make the most of what manager Roberto Martinez has called a “defining week” for the club this season.
Liverpool’s progress to the semifinals of the Europa League and their distance from the Top 4 has resulted in Jurgen Klopp holding the Europa League in higher priority over the rest of the season. Everton’s season, on the other hand, is currently dying a slow death, but their upcoming FA Cup semifinal against Manchester United serves them with an opportunity to end the season on a high. Little wonder then that Wednesday’s Merseyside Derby is the least hyped in recent history.
Jurgen Klopp vs Roberto Martinez
The identity of both managers and the perception the respective supporters of their clubs currently hold is indication that Liverpool and Everton are heading in completely opposite directions at this point in time. Jurgen Klopp’s intelligent game management on the touchline and his work behind the scenes has primed the Reds for a potentially successful ending to a season bookended by a trophy. Roberto Martinez’s complete disregard for the importance of defending coupled with the friction between himself, senior players and the fans has meant that an FA Cup semifinal maynot be enough to satisfy the fans.
Klopp will want more of the same from the Reds
Even though the Europa League is most definitely a priority for the Reds, the challenge for manager Jurgen Klopp is in ensuring that Liverpool have something to play for in the League until the last day of the season. Klopp will want to ensure that the new-found momentum stays with the Reds, while ensuring key players stay fit and available for the rest of the season.
Klopp is likely to bring back the majority of the first choice players who sat out the away trip to Bournemouth this past weekend. Hence, the likes of Simon Mignolet, Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno and Nathaniel Clyne will most likely be back in the starting line up. A mini injury crisis in midfield makes life hard for Klopp, whereas the competition between Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge may prompt a “horses for courses” approach up front.
Martinez currently on thin ice
Everton supporters’ patience with Roberto Martinez is running thin. His emphasis on ball possession while simultaneously not paying enough attention to the importance of defending has turned the team to an artistic but soft team from the gritty side they were under David Moyes. Martinez has labeled this as a defining week due to the Toffees having to play both Liverpool and Manchester United in quick succession, but the danger for him is that it could turn out to be defining for all the wrong reasons.
Injuries to key players like Phil Jagielka and Seamus Coleman, coupled with the complete loss of form and confidence for John Stones, leaves Everton particularly vulnerable in defence. Romelu Lukaku will most likely face a late fitness test, while James McCarthy should be back in the side from suspension. The looming presence of the FA Cup final this weekend might tempt Martinez to throw in the likes of Tom Davies and Callum Connolly in order to keep his players fit for the weekend.
Divock Origi vs Ramiro Funes Mori
Divock Origi had barely made his Liverpool debut at the time of the last Merseyside Derby, but his work rate and improved finishing over the last 3 months has meant that his stock among Liverpool supporters is only rising by the day. The son of former Kenya international Mike Origi, his performances up front against Borussia Dortmund both home away has meant his manager’s willingness to start him ahead of a fully fit Daniel Sturridge is not misplaced.
Ramiro Funes Mori arrived on Merseyside from his homeland with the reputation of a talented but rash defender, but the struggle for form and fitness among all Everton defenders has meant that he has been the best performer at the back for the Toffees. Funes Mori will need to be on high alert given Origi’s raw pace though, but will also provide Everton with an aerial threat on the night.
Romelu Lukaku vs Mamadou Sakho
Everton’s talisman was missing during the drab 1-1 home draw against Southampton this past week on account of a groin injury, but the “defining week” for Roberto Martinez and Everton would be defining for all the wrong reasons if Lukaku does not start the Merseyside Derby at Anfield on Wednesday night. Lukaku has already started all but one league game for Everton this season, and Martinez has already declared that Lukaku will start every game when fit.
Mamadou Sakho’s declaration of ‘Liverpool country’ following the win over Borussia Dortmund at Anfield has enhanced his cult hero status among the fan base, but his inconsistent performances still cast a shadow over his growing reputation. Sakho’s level of performance has oscillated between imperious at Old Trafford to shaky at Southampton, but his ability to raise his game to the occasion will make his battle with Lukaku a fascinating one.
Joe Allen vs James McCarthy
Questions remain over the future of Joe Allen’s Liverpool career, but those questions surrounding his form since the turn of the year are no longer being asked. Joe Allen has played like a player who knows exactly what his required of him – whether as a sub or as a starter. He still does not score or assist often enough, but his ability to keep the ball helps Liverpool gain and keep control of the midfield. His suitability to Klopp’s pressing game is another plus as well.
James McCarthy, on the other hand, is arguably Everton’s first choice as a defensive midfielder. He will be tasked with paying close attention to Allen, and will be the one player relied upon to instigate turnovers of possession in a side that does not work hard enough on the field.
- Liverpool are one of the better sides in the Premier League at implementing a pressing game, especially against the technically proficient, possession-based teams in the league.
- Daniel Sturridge’s fitness has been improving ever since he first made his most recent comeback to Liverpool’s matchday squad, while his goalscoring touch has not gone anywhere.
- Liverpool have not been good at defending set pieces for nearly four seasons now. Romelu Lukaku will be ready to pounce on any mistakes made at the back.
- Injuries to Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson and Emre Can have left Liverpool thin in midfield.
- Combination play between Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley moving forward should keep the Liverpool defence busy at Anfield.
- Emphasis on ball possession without paying enough attention to covering ground will leave the Toffees vulnerable to Liverpool’s pressing from the front.