Everton v Liverpool: Pre-Match Talking Points
By Jordan Carreno
Matchday 29 has Liverpool making the short trek across Stanley Park to take on Everton at Goodison Park for the 233rd Merseyside Derby. Kickoff is set for 11:15 AM EST on Sunday.
Another year, another away day over at the splinter infested, wooden palace that is Goodison Park. After the meeting in December, Liverpool have now extended their unbeaten run in the league against Everton to 16 games. So, will Everton finally turn their fortunes and throw a wrench in Liverpool’s title push, or will Liverpool continue their march for toward the elusive Premier League glory that has evaded them for nearly three decades? We welcome you to come on down to any one of our three LFC Tampa Bay locations, which will all be open and showing the match, and find out with your fellow Tampa Bay Reds. With all the being said, let’s get into the talking points.
When we last faced off against Everton in December, the vibe around the blue half of Merseyside was much different than it is now. At that point in time, Everton were sixth and beginning to look like they had discovered an identity they could cling to and be proud of. They even pushed Liverpool early and, in all honesty, had the much better and clearer opportunities in the derby at Anfield. Then Divock Origi decided to follow in a mishit Van Dijk shot and everything began to unravel.
Since that moment, Everton have been on a bit of a downward trend. In the 14 matches following the first derby of the season, Everton have only managed to win 4 of those games. In that run are 2 losses to City by a combined score of 5–1 and a 6–2 thrashing at the hands of Tottenham. Also, those 4 wins come against the likes of Cardiff, Burnley, Bournemouth, and Huddersfield, teams who are all currently somewhat, if not fully, involved in a race to survive relegation. Some might say that last gasp winner by Origi ruined Everton.
It got so bad for our blue nosed neighbors that they were openly looking for their side lose to Manchester City at home in the hopes that it could help stop Liverpool from winning the title. Doubtlessly, they will all be hoping that their team deals Liverpool’s title challenge a devastating blow on Sunday. There will also be an added level of desperation given that Everton haven’t managed to beat us at their place, or at all, since October of 2010 when Roy Hodgson was manager and Paul Konchesky was a starter. It is all setting up for Liverpool to completely ruin Everton’s season and the morale of their supporters.
With Everton currently sitting in 9th, four points behind Watford in 8th, there is an outside chance for them to get into a European spot. Though making up that ground could be a tough ask, a win in the Merseyside Derby could jump start that for them. However, another loss against Liverpool could send Everton deeper into their spiral and render their season irrelevant and empty.
Waiting On Bobby
When Bobby Firmino went down with an ankle injury against United, Liverpool supporters around the globe held their collective breathes. It is no secret that the Brazilian number 9 is an invaluable part of Klopp’s team and that there are very few, if any, members of the squad who can mimic and bring to the table what Bobby does. That it ended up being only a minor sprain was encouraging but there was still worry in the fanbase about how the team would perform in his absence against a capable Watford side.
That Liverpool ended up brushing aside Watford 5–0 might encourage Klopp from rushing Bobby back. This was accomplished by shifting Mane over to the false 9 position and allowing Divock Origi to play the left wing. Neither Sadio nor Divock looked too out of place in these positions and both put on performances that meant the absence of Firmino was hardly felt or noticed. Given the frequency with which both Mane and Origi have haunted Everton, it might not be worth risking Bobby this weekend.
Of course, a Merseyside Derby is usually a heated affair that requires all hands on deck and so it might be wiser to run Bobby out. Firmino has shown an incredible ability to recover from injuries in the past, so a slight ankle sprain might not be an issue for our number 9. With a week until our next league match and 10 days until our pivotal away leg against Bayern, Klopp could get away with pushing Bobby without risking him for important matches down the road.
Regardless of what Klopp decides to do, it was a relief to see Liverpool handle Bobby’s absence so well against Watford. It has quietly been a deep seeded fear of Liverpool supporters that this squad would crumble if we had to go without Firmino for any period of time. That Klopp came up with a solution that yielded the results it did should at the very least alleviate some of that anxiety in the short term.
Coming Into Form
The 5–0 midweek against Watford was exactly what the doctor ordered. Almost instantly the worries of Liverpool losing their grips on the season, and the talk of their back-to-back goalless draws being signs of the cracks showing, disappeared. The convincing victory has created the platform for this Liverpool squad to come into form and put together a run towards the Premier League title. With only 10 games remaining in the season, now is the time for Liverpool to prove themselves worthy of the title of champions.
The goal for the rest of the season should be to win each and every game this Liverpool team plays. It is a tough ask, but becoming champions of England, especially whilst existing in the same space as this Man City team, was never going to be an easy task. It is cliche to say, but this is what champions do.
In the corresponding matches earlier in the season, Liverpool won 9 matches and drew 1 match against their upcoming opponents. Similar form would most likely mean the title comes home to Anfield. Having survived their mini-crisis with a lead at the top of the table still intact has handed this Liverpool side an opportunity to rediscover their first half of the season form and push onto glory.
More than being a tough away derby at Goodison, the match this Sunday is an opportunity to clear another hurdle without breaking stride, another memorable moment in a hopefully famous season.
More than being a pressurized end of season run, these next 10 games are the chance for this Liverpool side to put this finishing touches on their story. Coming into form for this last quarter of the season will ensure Liverpool seize upon that opportunity.
We again stick in the domestic table where David and I managed to pick up 2 points each for correctly predicting that Liverpool would win with a clean sheet. This sees David move to 34 points whilst I move to 38 points.
I think Sadio’s performance at the 9 and Origi’s cameo on the left wing will dissuade Klopp from rushing Bobby back into the starting line up. With the backline seemingly rediscovering their form with 4 straight clean sheets, the need to be full force going forward is not as great. Also, given Everton’s history for playing dirty in these games when their season is all but over, it might be for the best to not send Bobby out there and put him firmly in their cross-hairs.
I also think Everton are going to be up for this one, so we should see the 4–3–3 to help us set up to take advantage on the counter. Following the performance midweek, I wouldn’t change the line-up at all, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Henderson or Keita found a way in by replacing Milner. Regardless, the Reds are at the races early and all too eager to pile on the hurt for the Blues. 4–0.
David’s Prediction: This is essentially Everton’s season. Win this, they’ll win nothing but at least have something to hang their hats on, having done their part to ruin our joy. So I think they’ll throw everything they have us. We’re going to have to absorb their best punch early and often. It goes most of the game with missed chances by both sides keeping us stuck at nil-nil. The 90th minute comes and just as the fourth official puts a 4 minute added time sign in the air, Jordan Henderson cleans up a bouncing ball on a corner and sneaks one by Pickford’s T-Rex arms to win the match. Another 1–0 to the Reds in the flukiest, most infuriating of fashions for our blue nosed neighbors and on we go.