Liverpool will be aiming for victory against their neighbours from across Stanley Park this Saturday at Anfield. Both teams are coming off a disappointing loss in the league last weekend, while also dealing with fixture congestion from both Europe and the League Cup.
Several players’ injury status is up in the air at this point so predicting a starting 11 will be difficult. Daniel Sturridge may well feature for the Reds on Saturday, but it’s likely to be off the bench to provide an offensive spark, much in the same manner his services were required last season at Goodison Park. It’s expected that Joe Allen will miss out again, while it was announced last week that John Flanagan is facing an extended spell on the sidelines.
The major question surrounds the statuses of Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson. Coutinho was unable to play last weekend and both players missed the mid-week marathon with Middlesbrough.
Liverpool tried an all Italian strike partnership last Saturday at Upton Park with Fabio Borini and Mario Balotelli leading the line. Brendan Rodgers started with a diamond midfield behind the front two, but after falling behind to a quick West Ham double, he quickly subbed off Javier Manquillo to make way for a 3-5-2 formation. Borini and Balotelli never seemed to mesh and it’s likely Borini will find himself back on the bench this weekend.
With Sturridge likely to start from the bench, Balotelli will either feature as the lone striker at the top of a 4-2-3-1 or as the centre-forward in a 4-3-3. Liverpool does not appear to have another striker able to pair with Balotelli for the time being and this effectively forces Liverpool to scrap the diamond until Sturridge returns.
It’s likely Liverpool will return to the 4-2-3-1 they used against Aston Villa. Look for Manquillo and Moreno to again feature as the outside full-backs with Skrtel and Lovren likely starting as the central defenders. Look for Gerrard and Henderson to play in the double pivot as they did at Anfield two weeks ago.
The difficult choices for Brendan lie in the attacking midfield positions. While Raheem Sterling played the full 120 minutes mid-week, his importance to the team at the moment cannot be understated and he will likely find himself involved from the start against the Toffees. Sterling has moved more towards a central position in the 4-4-2 diamond, but using him a little wider on the right on Saturday may help slow down some advances from Everton’s left-back Leighton Baines.
Philippe Coutinho has had a slow start to the season, but he did put in two marvellous performances against Everton last campaign. A spot on the left side of the attacking three could see him form an intriguing partnership with Alberto Moreno as the Spaniard will undoubtedly be looking to join in the attack.
The number ten role may very well fall to Adam Lallana. His playmaking ability was phenomenal last season at Southampton and as he is finally approaching full fitness there may not be a better chance to endear himself to the Liverpool faithful than on Saturday in the derby. His ability to hustle and press should cause some problems for an Everton team that likes to play from the back.
All three attacking midfielders should provide a constant threat for Liverpool and coming out on the front foot could be key this weekend as slow starts have doomed the Reds recently. All three have the ability to play an incisive pass and should provide numerous opportunities for Mario Balotelli up top.
Key to the Game
A key stat coming into Saturday’s game concerns where the goals will come from for Liverpool on Saturday. The Reds have scored 14 goals the last six league meetings against Everton, with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge combining for seven goals and three assists. With Luis off to La Liga and Daniel likely to only make a late cameo, Liverpool will need one of the new signings to come up big or the disappointing start to the league campaign will surely continue.