The longest running top flight derby will be held for the 224th time on Saturday evening as Everton host Liverpool in a crucial league game. It has already become the subject of controversy after the Merseyside police as well as Liverpool’s mayor, Joe Anderson, requested the Premier League to bring forward the 5.30pm kick-off time, but the request was rejected because of broadcasting issues as the North London derby starts at 12.45pm on the same day.
It will be the latest kick-off time for the Merseyside derby on a Saturday for 15 years with the police harbouring concerns that the relatively late kick off will increase the risk of disorder at Goodison Park and also at the pubs showing the game.
The match is going to be even more emotionally charged than usual as Steven Gerrard makes his 33rd and final derby appearance in what will also be Brendan Rodgers’ 100th Premier League game in charge of Liverpool.
The hosts snatched a late point in the reverse fixture through Phil Jagielka’s sensational injury time strike from all of 30-yards to cancel out Gerrard’s free kick early on in the second half despite the Reds dominating most of the match in which they were guilty of missing quite a few chances.
The corresponding fixture was an entertaining, high scoring affair that saw Everton come from behind to take a 3-2 lead courtesy a Romelu Lukaku brace only for the then returning Daniel Sturridge to equalise with a minute left for full time.
Everton approach the game after a desperate win at Selhurst Park last Saturday that snapped an eight match winless run in all competitions and Roberto Martinez will be hoping for another win to further relieve the pressure off his shoulders after having his side knocked out of the FA Cup by West Ham after a replay as well as getting embroiled in the Kevin Mirallas penalty controversy in recent weeks.
Liverpool meanwhile will make the short trip across Stanley Park having played less than 72 hours earlier in the 4th round replay of the FA Cup at Bolton where they had to grind out a 2-1 win after going behind with both their goals coming after the 85th minute.
The two sides are separated by 12 points and Rodgers’ men will be looking to further that gap as they continue to surge up the table and push for a Champions League spot.
Martinez has dismissed rumours of James McCarthy aggravating his hamstring injury and revealed in his press conference ahead of the derby that the midfielder was in hospital having a scan to confirm that he has recovered fully. Saturday’s game could come a bit too soon for the 24-year-old though and he could make the match day squad at best.
Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar will definitely miss out with ankle and knee injuries respectively, along with goalkeeper Tim Howard who is still a week away from returning to action after sustaining a calf injury against Stoke City on Boxing Day.
Chelsea loanee Christian Atsu is away on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations with Ghana where he scored the goal of the tournament in the 3-0 quarterfinal win over Guinea.
Deadline day loan signing Aaron Lennon is expected to go straight into the squad.
Daniel Sturridge – who has scored 5 goals in his last 6 games against Everton – is unlikely to be thrown in from the start as his manager has stressed the importance of managing his return after a five month absence due to injury.
Lazar Markovic and Adam Lallana picked up knocks in the win over Bolton and will be assessed over the next two days.
The visitors don’t have too many injury concerns apart from those two, with Brad Jones and Jon Flanagan the only two players definitely sidelined.
Kolo Toure is with Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations where his country has reached the final and will face Ghana.
Everton: 4-2-3-1: Robles; Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Baines; Besic, Barry; McGeady, Naismith, Mirallas; Lukaku.
Liverpool: 3-4-2-1: Mignolet; Can, Skrtel, Sakho; Manquillo, Henderson, Lucas, Moreno; Gerrard, Coutinho, Sterling
Last five meetings
27 Sep 2014 Liverpool 1 – 1 Everton Premier League
28 Jan 2014 Liverpool 4 – 0 Everton Premier League
23 Nov 2013 Everton 3 – 3 Liverpool Premier League
05 May 2013 Liverpool 0 – 0 Everton Premier League
28 Oct 2012 Everton 2 – 2 Liverpool Premier League
- Everton have claimed just three wins out of 11 at home this season, losing three and drawing five.
- Along with QPR, Liverpool remain the only side not to draw a Premier League game away from home, winning six and losing five.
- Both teams have averaged almost similar possession in the Premier League. Everton rank third (56.5%) while Liverpool seventh (55.5%).
- Everton have scored the joint third highest goals from set pieces this season (8) while Liverpool the joint second from bottom (3).
- Everton have lost just one of their last eight home matches in the Premier League while Liverpool are unbeaten in seven league games.
- After a run of three consecutive clean sheets, Simon Mignolet is joint second with the most clean sheets in the league (8).
- Leighton Baines and Gareth Barry have the joint second highest assists and yellow cards in the league (8 each)
- Liverpool have averaged the joint second highest shots per game in the Premier League this season (15.9)
- The fixture has seen 20 red cards, the highest tally for any fixture in the Premier League.
- Brendan Rodgers remains unbeaten in seven meetings with Roberto Martinez, winning four and drawing three.
- Both teams have similar disciplinary records this season, Everton with 43 yellow cards and Liverpool with 42. Both teams have collected one red card each.
- Liverpool haven’t lost against Everton in nine matches between the two sides in all competitions.
Everton: Romelu Lukaku
It’s hard to believe that the Belgian international is only 21. Having come up through the ranks of Anderlecht, a multi-million pound move to Chelsea followed another one to Everton with a loan spell to West Brom in between, but Lukaku seems to have finally found home at Goodison Park. Saturday’s rivals Liverpool are amongst his favourites, as he has notched four goals in his last five league games against them.
He scored in Rodgers’ first game as a Liverpool manager at the Hawthorns to round off a 3-0 win before scoring in the reverse fixture at Anfield that season.
On his derby debut 15 months ago, he scored a brace in what was in his own words is his “best experience in club football”.
He has scored thrice in his last five games, including the winner against Crystal Palace in his side’s last game and leads the goalscoring charts for Everton this season with seven goals.
2.8 shots per game make him Everton’s biggest threat going forward, he will be looking repeat his heroics from the corresponding fixture to give his side another much needed win.
Liverpool: Raheem Sterling
Another youngster, another main man, another regular international for his country. The 20-year-old has been in scintillating form since his controversial mid-season break at the turn of the year. He has scored three goals in his last four games and his manager’s decision to give him a vacation seems to have really paid off.
Operating ahead of two number 10’s in the 3-4-2-1 formation, Sterling benefits from the creativity behind him, especially that of Coutinho who provided a delightful assist for his side’s opening goal against West Ham.
He also scored his side’s opening goal in their comeback win at the Macron Stadium having hit the post earlier in the game and is their joint top scorer along with Gerrard in the league.
With his quick movement and half turns, Sterling is a menace to the best of defenders and will be desperate to notch his first Merseyside derby goal on Saturday. The return of Sturridge means that he will be deployed behind the striker where he can drift in between the lines to find tiny pockets of spaces and link up with main man.
Along with a brilliant first touch and a tremendous burst of acceleration, Sterling possesses an immense understanding of the game which will hold him in good stead in what will undoubtedly be a bright future.
Both sides have stopped leaking in goals of late after conceding heavily in the opening few months. Expect a tight game that would finish 1-1.