The Merseyside derby sees Everton cross Stanley Park to Anfield, their original home. This weekend has a feeling of make or break for both clubs.
With Manchester City travelling to Arsenal, Liverpool could find themselves nine points clear of the Gunners if they and the Citizens win. If the Reds needed an incentive on top of local pride, that surely is enough!
Everton likewise need the points. Currently seventh, level with Arsenal on points but having played two games more, the Toffees need to keep on winning to heap the pressure on the north London club whose season has collapsed in recent weeks.
On their travels, only Chelsea humiliated Ronald Koeman’s men and that was one of the most impressive performances of their season.
However, a point at Manchester City and a narrow 2 – 3 reverse at Tottenham ought to give them confidence that they can stand toe-to-toe with the rest of the division. A little bit of luck going their way could make all of the difference.
Things were going well for Jurgen Klopp following the dismal start to the year. Arsenal were taken apart in the first half at Anfield, followed by a win over Burnley and a well-deserved point at Manchester City.
Four home matches without victory have been followed by three consecutive wins at Anfield, two over top four rivals. Smiles are gradually returning to this side of the city.
The Reds have taken more points away from home against teams in the top half of the table than anyone else this season and are unbeaten in the home matches against the top six.
And then Adam Lallana succumbed to a thigh injury on international duty and with Daniel Sturridge out, an attack which is already overly reliant upon Sadio Mane, looks even more lightweight.
The club arranged a private jet to pick up Philippe Coutinho and Firmino from international duty and they need the pair back, ready to go for Saturday’s encounter. Jordan Henderson is expected to return, which was better news for the German manager.
Even so, his squad looks threadbare and lacking options in attack. Only Manchester United have shut out Liverpool at Anfield this season and are one of four teams to have left with a point or more in their back pocket.
Klopp knows history is on his player’s side but even so, they can’t afford to be lax. Only four clean sheets this season at home in the Premier League underlines the defensive issues he faces. Then again, three of them came against top five sides so in the big matches, they are getting things right.
If Everton are to prove their ambition to Romelu Lukaku, this is a match they have to win. Reports over the past week suggest that he is ready to leave Goodison Park this summer in search of a club which can satisfy his Champions League ambitions. Could a Europa League place give him enough reassurance about progress, to sign a new contract?
It will be a tall order. Seamus Coleman suffered an appalling injury on Republic of Ireland duty and is out for the season and more. Youngster Mason Holgate seems certain to step into the fray in his place.
Coleman and Yannick Bolasie are two long-term absentees whose presence could have changed Everton’s season. Certainly the former Crystal Palace winger formed an excellent understanding with Lukaku which promises much for the future if the Belgian striker stays at the club.
It wasn’t a good international fortnight for Koeman. Ramiro Funes Mori was stretchered off in Argentina’s 0 – 2 loss to Bolivia while Morgan Schneiderlin and James McCarthy both face late fitness tests ahead of kick-off.
Away from home, the Toffees have won just one of the last five (D3, L1) with goals not easy to come by since Christmas.
It’s a tough few days for Everton. This match is followed by the usually incendiary trip to Old Trafford so there is no let up for the players. New injuries won’t be welcomed at any time but any more suffered now, could scupper Everton’s European hopes entirely.
FORM (Last six games)
Liverpool - LWLWWD
Everton - WDWLWW
- Liverpool are unbeaten in 21 of their last 22 home Premier League matches.
- Everton haven’t won at Anfield in the Premier League since 27/09/1999 (D8, L8).
- Liverpool have scored at least 2 goals in 9 of the last 11 home Premier League matches.
- Everton’s last three Premier League games have all featured +2.5 goals.
- Everton have lost 1 of their last 12 Premier League matches.
CURRENT MATCH ODDS (BEST PRICED ODDS)
HEAD TO HEAD
Last six meetings
28.01.2014 EPL Liverpool 4-0 Everton
27.09.2014 EPL Liverpool 1-1 Everton
07.02.2015 EPL Everton 0-0 Liverpool
04.10.2015 EPL Everton 1-1 Liverpool
20.04.2016 EPL Liverpool 4-0 Everton
19.12.2016 EPL Everton 0-1 Liverpool
With Liverpool’s home form in the Premier League, this has home win written all over it. But local derbies are strange matches; just when you think it is straightforward and easy to predict, the result goes the other way.
While Seamus Coleman’s injury on international duty was by far the most horrific, the absence of Adam Lallana could be more crucial. The England international is a constant thorn in any opposition’s side and it’s no coincidence that his absence in January and February saw Liverpool fall flat on their faces in their Wembley quests.
If Everton can get an early foothold in the game, Liverpool’s self-doubts may return but the Toffees do rely heavily on Romelu Lukaku. Keeping him quiet is easier said than done but Liverpool should have enough to take the three points on this occasion.