Going into the 229th Merseyside Derby, the two sides couldn’t be farther apart in their expectations this season. Liverpool are coming off the back of a 7-0 win over Spartak Moscow, securing Champions League qualification – while Everton crashed out of the Europa League despite victory against Apollon.
With “Big” Sam Allardyce taking the helm at Goodison Park – Everton are looking to steady the ship and currently find themselves in mid-table. His side will travel to Anfield 11 points behind the hosts – with a derby day win having the potential to kick-start their season. Meanwhile, Liverpool will look to continue their push for Top Four as the Reds are unbeaten in nine games in all competitions. A win for the Reds will see them move up into third place.
Last Meeting: Liverpool 3-1 Everton (1st April 2017)
Philippe Coutinho stole the show in the last Derby with a spectacular solo goal in Liverpool’s 3-1 win over the Toffees. His instant reply to Matthew Pennington’s equaliser saw Liverpool maintain their lead, which was increased by Divock Origi in the second half.
There was also a touching tribute to former Liverpool captain, coach and manager Ronnie Moran pre-kick off with a minute’s applause and display on the Kop. Following the result, Everton have failed to win in the last 14 Merseyside Derbies and haven’t won at Anfield since 1999.
Everton had a shocking start to the season under the guidance of Ronald Koeman but have recovered their form as of late. The Blues were in the drop zone after a hammering at St Mary’s at the hands of Southampton, but back-to-back Premier League wins against West Ham and Huddersfield have seen Everton soar up the table.
David Unsworth became Everton’s caretaker manager until Big Sam was announced prior to the 4-0 win over West Ham – with the lifelong Everton fan and former player failing to impress enough to keep the job on a permanent basis. With his record of saving teams from the drop, Allardyce will look to take Everton back to basics, in contrast to the meticulous methods and Cruyfian principles of Ronald Koeman.
The Key Battle: Roberto Firmino vs Ashley Williams
The influence of Roberto Firmino within Jurgen Klopp’s side is mostly underrated by the consensus of Liverpool fans. In recent weeks, the Brazilian has been nothing short of brilliant – adding consistent goals to his game amongst the crucial pressing actions and fluid link-up-play.
Firmino is such a task for defenders as he never maintains a consistent position, by moving out wide, Firmino creates space centrally for the wide threats of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to cut inside and cause danger. With Ashley Williams arguably Everton’s best defender, (despite some high profile mistakes this season) the Welshman will be tasked with negating the effect of Firmino in this match.
The most notable absentee will be Alberto Moreno who limped off the pitch in Liverpool’s mid-week win – with the extent of his injury yet to rear its head. The real question will be who replaces him at left-back, whether it be the experience of James Milner or outcast Andrew Robertson.
Adam Lallana continues his comeback into the side, while Philippe Coutinho was absent from training on Friday for an unknown reason.
As for Everton, Leighton Baines, Yannick Bolasie, Seamus Coleman and Ross Barkley will all be absent for the clash with varying injuries. Big Sam will certainly be limited in his defensive options with the lack of natural full-backs at his disposal but will hope that his organisation can overrule the injury losses.
Liverpool (4-3-3): Mignolet, Gomez, Lovren, Klavan, Milner, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Coutinho, Mane, Firmino; Salah.
Everton (5-3-1-1): Pickford, Kenny, Williams, Holgate, Jagielka, Martina, Gueye, Davies, Rooney, Sigurdsson: Calvert-Lewin.
Prediction Liverpool 2-1 Everton