“Football is not the most important thing in the world but on Monday night I’d say for 90 minutes in Liverpool it is.” – Jurgen Klopp
THE BUILD UP
Everything comes to a standstill, families are divided when it comes to the Merseyside Derby. The rivalry is more than just 90 minutes and this fixture is more than just three points; it is a battle for pride, honor, glory, bragging rights and happiness over the festive period.
Gameweek 17 sees the league table starting to take substantial shape and the 227th Merseyside Derby looms large on the horizon. A week ago, the Merseyside Derby didn’t seem as appealing (relatively) with both Red and Blue part of the Merseyside down on morale. But after both teams got back to winning ways in their respective midweek clashes, they go into this fixture absolutely buzzing.
The Toffees had won just 1 of their previous 10 Premier League encounters until earlier this week when they came back from behind to dismantle the high flying Gunners. Everton players responded to Koeman’s complaints in an emphatic fashion as the Dutchman openly demanded more aggression from his side. Everton will go into this game full throttle with their fabled 12th man roaring louder than ever.
Last season, the visit across Stanley Park filled the Kopites with dread, this season it is certainly a fixture to relish for the Anfield faithful. This will be Jurgen’s first ever visit to the Goodison Park and he will have fond memories of the 4-0 showdown at Anfield against the Toffees back in April, 2016.
After dropping points against The Saints, Cherries and Hammers, Liverpool got back to winning ways earlier in the week with one of the most impressive away performances of the season at the Riverside Stadium. The Reds trail league leaders Chelsea by 9 points and will be looking to reduce the gap to keep their long standing ambition of lifting that elusive Premier League trophy alive.
- Everton will be without their skipper Phil Jagielka for Monday’s derby clash at Goodison Park following his sending off against Arsenal.
- Gareth Barry is available after sitting out the midweek clash which means McCarthy might miss out unless Barkley is shifted to the flanks. This could see one of Valencia or Lennon being sacrificed to accommodate a midfield trio of Gueye-Barry-McCarthy.
- Kevin Mirallas and Gerard Deulofeu appear unlikely to force their way back into the starting XI
- Yannick Bolasie and Muhamed Besic are long-term absentees.
- Klopp confirmed in his Pre-Match presser that Simon Mignolet will feature between the sticks which sees Loris Karius “training without pressure”.
- Daniel Sturridge is nearing match fitness after working with the rehab coach as Klopp hinted a possible 20 minute cameo role off the bench come Monday night.
- Emre Can is expected to start on the bench as he works towards gaining 100% fitness. Honestly, ‘Friendly Derby’ ain’t the best of occasions to throw in a recovering player with all sorts tackles flying over the course of 90 minutes.
- For all the calmness and composure that Joel Matip brings in an otherwise shaky Liverpool defence, he is not expected to be thrown into this vital clash as he recovers from an ankle knock.
- Philippe Coutinho remains sidelined, while Danny Ings is a long-term absentee.
- The ‘Friendly Derby’ has seen more Red cards (21) than any other in the Premier League history, while 11 of them have come at Goodison Park; another Premier League record.
- Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 11 league derby matches with Everton (Won 4, Drew 7)
- Everton have only won one of their last 19 derbies (Won 1, Drew 9, Lost 9) with that solitary win coming in October 2010.
- This will be the 7th Merseyside Derby to be played on a Monday and Everton have only lost one of the previous six (Won 3, Drew 2, Lost 1).
- The Toffees have won 11 points from losing positions in the Premier League this season, more than any other side.
- Everton have scored a goal in the final five minutes in 4 of their last 5 Premier League, three of those have changed the outcome of the matches.
- Romelu Lukaku has scored five goals in his last eight Premier League appearances against Liverpool.
- Daniel Sturridge has scored four goals in his last five league appearances against Everton for Liverpool.
- Divock Origi has scored in his last five games for Liverpool in all competitions, the longest such run at the club since Daniel Sturridge in February 2014 (eight games)
The Belgian had a rather silent outing against Arsenal but having been involved in 12 goals this season, the Toffees will be backing their striker to cause some serious problems to the Liverpool defense. Lukaku has got everything to make it to the next level in world football and it is occasions like these which cry out for a heroic performance. Lukaku is a huge threat when he dribbles at the defenders and might just prove to be too hot to handle for Lovren-Klavan partnership. He can also cause problems by taking over the fullbacks (Milner, particularly) and dead-ball situations. He needs to improve on making those attacking runs but he’s simply deadly in the area and carries that moment of brilliance in his bag.
Adam Lallana heads for Goodison in the form of his life with six goals and six assists (More than any other English player in the Premier League). He is unarguably the most influential player in the side having been anchoring that quick-silver attack from the midfield all season. He roams across the pitch like a vagabond albeit he is smart enough to know when to carry the ball or play an early pass. His clever movement has always got him into dangerous areas and more importantly we saw on Wednesday he now has the calmness to convert his chances. An epitome for Klopp’s Gegenpressing model, Lallana brings with him a staggeringly high attacking as well as defensive work rate.
What we saw at Goodison Park in the midweek showdown against Arsenal was two contrasting versions of an Everton performance.
If Everton play on the back foot and allow Liverpool to come all guns blazing (which they will) then we all know the problems Klopp’s juggernaut can cause. On the flip-side, if Everton play with high intensity and the tempo we saw during the fightback against Arsenal, they can definitely be a force to be reckoned with. Especially playing at Goodison of all places.
Liverpool are favourites for a reason and they will relish going into the game which offers high intensity to bring the best out of Klopp’s counterpressing strategy.
Both teams to score? Lots of corners? Divock to make it 6/6?
I am going with a 1-2 win for Liverpool and a merry merry Christmas for the Red part of the Merseyside.