The early kick off on Saturday afternoon will see the 221st edition of the Merseyside derby, as Everton take on Liverpool at Goodison Park.
With four places but only three points separating the two sides in the Premier League table, Roberto Martinez will be hoping his Everton side can get the win over their local rivals in his first derby as manager and move up to third place, behind Liverpool only on goal difference.
Brendan Rodgers on the other hand has been in charge of the Reds for two derbies but has drawn both, and will be hoping this will be third time lucky for his team in order to move to the top of the league table, albeit temporarily.
Martinez should have a fully fit squad to choose from, but may wish to change things round a bit. With Leon Osman and Kevin Mirallas failing to reach the standards expected of them lately, the manager may choose to play Ross Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu instead. However, it is a derby after all and so he may stick with his senior players.
As things stand for Liverpool, Rodgers should have a mostly fit squad to choose from. Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge have both recovered from the slight injuries they had while on England duty, and all other international players have returned fit. Lucas and Luis Suarez have yet to return, but should both be fit and available for Saturday’s game. Jose Enrique is the only absentee as he requires a knee operation.
The Liverpool Echo has some interesting statistics for this fixture:
Everton have scored 252 goals against Liverpool in their history, with the Reds scoring 304.
Liverpool have the better record in the Merseyside derby, winning 88 times. Everton have won on 66 occasions and there have been 66 draws.
Everton have won 40 derbies at Goodison, superior to Liverpool’s 39 wins at the home of the Toffees. Winning on Saturday will draw the Reds level.
There have been 26 red cards in the Merseyside derby – nine for Liverpool and 17 for Everton. It is also the most “explosive” fixture in the history of the Premier League era.
Everton have won only six of the last 20 derbies at Goodison compared to Liverpool’s nine.
Lukaku has been in great form for Everton so far this season, scoring five goals in seven league games. Everton fans will be extremely happy with Chelsea’s decision to loan out the Belgian striker, given that Mourinho would have probably had more urgent need of him. He has attempted 13 shots overall with 10 of them being on target, giving him a shooting accuracy of 77%. He’s averaging a shot every 42 minutes and a shot on target every 55 minutes. He has also scored from all three of his clear-cut chances, but only has a normal chance conversion rate of 38%. It’s clear however that Lukaku is the focal point for Everton’s attack, rather than a creator. Lukaku has only created three chances for his team mates and has just one assist to his name. However, the Belgian is still a huge threat to Liverpool’s defence and they will do well to stop him from scoring on Saturday.
Who else but Luis Suarez? The Uruguayan has scored the most goals in the Premier League alongside his team mate Daniel Sturridge, with eight goals apiece. He has scored all eight in just six appearances, giving him an average of a goal every 67 minutes. Suarez has also attempted 17 more shots on goal than Lukaku in this time, but only half of them were on target. He has a poorer chance conversion rate than the Belgian at just 27%, but is attempting a shot at goal much quicker than Lukaku at 18 minutes per shot. Suarez also has a much more creative impact for the Reds as well, creating 14 chances from open play and three from set pieces. However, this is more reflective of the way Brendan Rodgers has his attackers playing. Suarez has scored several times against Everton in the past, and could do so again on Saturday if their defence can’t stop him.
Last season’s fixture at Goodison ended in a 2-2 draw and with both teams’ attacks looking so strong. However, Everton have struggled with scoring lately and this certainly hasn’t been a problem for Liverpool. While Everton will be fired up for the derby, Liverpool will share the same motivation with the added incentive of going top of the league and so I think it will finish 2-1 to Liverpool.