Everton face city rivals Liverpool in the 219th edition of the Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park on Sunday. In what is shaping up to be a big game for both sides, not only due to the rivalry, but more importantly both sides will be desperately seeking the 3pts on Sunday. Everton have had a decent start to the season, they will be entering the derby however, coming off one of their most disappointing performances, a lacklustre 1-1 draw to bottom side QPR, however that result did see them remain in 4th, so it isn’t all doom and gloom for the blue half of Liverpool. Across the street, it has been a rather hectic start for Liverpool, under the new regime of Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool stumbled out of the blocks to start the season, but they seem to be developing as the season progresses, and this has been highlighted by the fact that they will be entering the derby looking for 3 wins in a row, after beating Reading 1-0 and then Anzhi midweek 1-0.
Everton and Dutch centre back Johnny Heitinga had this to say on the upcoming derby
‘I can`t wait till next Sunday because it`s the biggest game of the year in my eyes. It`s a home game as well and if you take a look at the table, you know, you can`t talk about favourites but if we win, there`s a big gap between us and Liverpool. I`m not talking about favourites but you know this is a game that is different to a league game because it`s a derby and the stadiums are not far from each other. There is just a park between the stadiums. In games like derbies there are some different emotions that are coming up into your body.’
For Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, he of course had a tough European fixture against Anzhi to focus on before the derby on Sunday, and he praised his sides effort against the Russian side saying
Great credit to the players, to be fair I haven’t even been thinking about the derby game, for us it’s really just about one game at a time at the moment and Anzhi are a very good side with some outstanding players,”Tonight was an excellent performance. It’s three clean sheets in a row which is important for us and we’re now adding that bit of steel and concentration to some of the footballing elements that we’re working on, It was a good win and we can now recover and look forward to the weekend.’
‘I thought the players were terrific, they took control of the game, and then when they had to dig deep towards the end they put their bodies on the line and got their blocks in and they were outstanding.’
Everton Team News:
Everton have a host of concerns about influential players. In bad news for the side, Steven Pienaar will be suspended for this match after his harsh red card against QPR. Darron Gibson looks to miss yet another match as he is still recovering from the thigh strain he suffered almost 2 months ago. In good news for the side, influential big man Marouane Fellaini looks to be winning his battle against a knee injury he suffered whilst on international duty which caused him to miss the QPR. Also, stalwart, Tony Hibbert successfully played 90mins in the reserves match against Arsenal and is a chance to feature.
Possible Starting XI: Howard, Baines, Distin, Jagielka, Hibbert, Neville, Osman, Mirallas, Naismith, Fellaini, Jelavic
Player to watch: Marouane Fellaini
If he does return for the derby, it will provide a huge boost for Everton. The Belgian has been in fine form to start the season and has won many plaudits since his switch to attacking midfielder this season. His absence was highlighted in the 1-1 draw with lowly QPR, as we lacked the bite and intensity that the Belgian brings to the squad. Of course his physical dominance will be a plus when up against the likes of Allen, but technically is good with the ball and is the pivot in our passing system in which the likes of Mirallas, Osman and Naismith all feed off. Will also play a big part in trying to stop Liverpool from playing their style of football, as his pressure and defensive ability will be needed in order to stop the passing game which has been adopted by Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers.
Liverpool Team News:
The big headache for Brendan Rodgers was juggling his squad ahead of the Anzhi and Everton match. Rodgers elected to field a near full strength side with the likes of Suarez, Gerrard, Sahin and others all starting in the 1-0 win over Anzhi. Now it will be the question of whether these lads can recover in time for the derby. First choice keeper Pepe Reina looks set to miss the match with a hamstring complaint. Other players out for the game, and on the long term injury list are Lucas (hip), Kelly (knee) and Borini (foot).
Possible Starting XI: Reina, Wisdom, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson, Allen, Gerrard, Sahin, Suso, Suarez, Sterling
Player to watch: Luis Suarez
Not going to even sugar coat it, I wanted to say the referee, because over the past few seasons, especially at Goodison, Liverpool do tend to get the rub of the green a bit more than Everton do from the officials, and that was highlighted in last seasons corresponding fixture. The man at the centre of that controversy last seasons, will again be the main man for Liverpool in this game. Luis Suarez, although much aligned by everyone, is a talented football, with the ball, he is skilful, quick and can beat defenders with ease at times, he has a very high football IQ and Everton defenders will need to mark him closely and make sure not to make any rash challenges, as Suarez has shown, he will go down at any chance. Keep the Uruguayan quiet for the 90mins, I find it hard to see how Everton could lose if that is the case.
Match Facts & Stats
1. Safe to say this fixture has been dominated by our neighbours, so much so, in the last 11 meetings between the two sides, Liverpool have won 7, opposed to Everton’s 1 win. Of course, Everton fans do not need reminding of our matches against Liverpool last season, with Liverpool recording a double in the league as well as a FA Cup semi win
2. The Merseyside Derby is notorious for its red cards, in the Premier League era, there have been 20 red cards issued. Coincidentally, 8 out of the last 10 red cards have been issued to Everton players and Everton have seen 6 red cards in the last 7 derby matches played at Goodison.
3. Everton have made Goodison a fortress of late, in the last 7 games they have won 6 of them and drawn the other. Polar opposite to Liverpool, who have won more games on the road (4) than home (3) this year.
4. As Everton fans were told numerous times last season, Liverpool led the league in hitting the woodwork last season, hitting the woodwork 33 times, however, this season, Everton are leading in that category hitting the woodwork 10 times in their 8 games so far
5. This will be the 10th straight season that the first Merseyside Derby of the season will be held at Goodison Park.
Not going to lie, after the debacle of last seasons derbies, I am dreading this match, fingers crossed Everton finally get a referee that can handle the pressure cooker of the Merseyside derby and be able to stamp out the ‘antics’ from both sides from the get go. This will be a true test for this Everton side, as the recent history shows, we have been atrocious against our neighbours, but this Everton side, is supposedly a new Everton side, and if they want to show there credentials of finishing in the top 4, then they must win this game. And to be honest, looking at both squads, if we get a fair ref, I expect us to beat Liverpool, who are going in a transition of sorts, I personally think our squad is better than Liverpool at this stage, and as such we should be looking at the 3pts especially at home. However, I just cant be confident heading into derbies given the recent history, so I am going for a cautious 1-1 draw with Mirallas scoring for Everton and a dubious penalty to snatch a draw for the visitors. COYB!!!! GIVE US A COMPETENT REF FOR ONCE PLEASE!!! FORGET THE RIVALRY, THE 3PTS FOR US WILL BE ABSOLUTELY MASSIVE FOR US!!!!!!!