Generally, a Merseyside derby is a marquee event in the Premier League calendar, at least for the fans of the two teams. But this season, from Liverpool’s perspective it feels more like an ill-timed intermission in an engrossing film that the Champions League quarter finals promise to be. From Everton’s point of view, the season is more or less over, as even the bragging rights of finishing above the Reds are beyond their reach. But, that does not mean that either side will simply go through the motions on Saturday, when they meet at lunchtime. Winning the derby is always important and we can expect both the sides to try and do exactly that.
Everton are ninth placed with 40 points and six games to play. They certainly cannot catch Liverpool, who are third with 66 points, even if they win every single game and the Reds lose all of theirs. But, Sam Allardyce loves a challenge against the Big Six and has had some memorable games against Liverpool when he has frustrated the Reds. At 0.86 points per game against Liverpool, his record does not inspire awe but does indicate that a draw might not be a very far fetched result. Everton’s results in March were a mixed bag with wins against Stoke and Brighton being bookended by losses against Burnley and Manchester City. There is almost no chance of the Toffees getting relegated but a point against their arch-rivals will boost Everton’s confidence and also take them further towards safety.
Liverpool’s fixture list is nowhere as kind this season as it was last season at this stage or even as it looked just last month. Five games in 15 days are generally tough for a team, but when it is at the fag-end of the season and that too when three of those five games comprise of two quarter-finals against the best side in the country and a derby against your arch-rivals, the kind of exertion felt by the players is at a completely different level. Jurgen Klopp has repeatedly expressed his displeasure at the scheduling as he knows that his side runs the danger of serious injuries, which Liverpool simply cannot afford. Of course, the Reds come into this derby in the highest of spirits. They were outstanding on Wednesday night as they outplayed Manchester City in every department. But that performance also took a toll on the players. Klopp will be hoping that this derby is the only game that Salah will have to miss. The German will also look to rotate his side as much as possible to keep them fresh for the second leg of the quarterfinals.
- Everton have won only one of their last 22 league meetings with Liverpool (D10 L11), including failing to win each of the last 14 since a 2-0 victory in October 2010. In fact, in all competitions Liverpool are unbeaten in 16 games against the Toffees (W8 D8). This is their longest loss-less run against their neighbours.
- However, at Goodison Park, the narrative for Everton is not as dire. Four of the last five Premier League meetings between these two sides at Goodison have ended in a draw, although the Reds won the last league game at Goodison 0-1.
- If Liverpool win, it will be the first time since 1989-90 the club have managed to win 10+ away games in consecutive seasons.
- There have been 21 red cards in the Premier League meetings between these sides, the most of any fixture in the competition. Everton have been the recipients of 14 of these, also a record for a team against any other single side.
After his transfer in January, Theo Walcott has played for 764 minutes scoring two goals and assisting two. A goal contribution per 190 odd minutes does not seem extra-ordinary but if Rooney and Tosun are to have any service, Theo Walcott is going to be important against Liverpool. His pace could be key against what is likely to be a tired or a makeshift defense from Liverpool. An xG per 90 of 0.31 and xAssist per 90 of 0.27 indicate that if he gets time on the pitch he can indeed hurt his opponents.
All talk about Mohamed Salah has eclipsed his fellow forwards a bit. Sadio Mane is having a great season but is overshadowed by Salah’s insane numbers. Not only is he in good form – 7 goals and 2 assists in 10 games in all competitions, but he also has a good record at Goodison Park. Mane has scored on both of his last two visits to Goodison Park in the Premier League, with Southampton in April 2016 and the same fixture last season. His xG per 90 of 0.47 and xA per 90 of 0.20 means that he is likely to score two out of three times he completes 90 minutes on the pitch. However, he is unlikely to spend the entire game on the field on Saturday as Klopp would want him fit for the game against City on Tuesday night. But, even a short appearance from Mane in this form can help his team return with a point or three.
Idrissa Gueye and Ashley Williams are expected to be back in the side after recovering from injury and serving a ban respectively. Tom Davies also made the bench against City and might again be on the bench against the Reds. Mason Holgate, Mangala, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Maarten Stekelenburg, and James McCarthy are all injured and will not feature.
Liverpool were given a scare in the form of Mohamed Salah limping off against City on Wednesday night. The Egyptian might need to be rested at least against Everton. The crisis in defense continues as Ragnar Klavan, Joel Matip, and Joe Gomez are all injured, leaving Klopp with few options for rotation in his backline. Moreno might come in for Robertson but other than that the backline will likely remain the same as Wednesday. Nathaniel Clyne does not have matches under his belt but Klopp might gamble to give Trent Alexander-Arnold a much needed rest as well. Adam Lallana will definitely not feature due to his injury he suffered against Palace last weekend and Emre Can remains doubtful as well.
If Liverpool can play as energetic a game as they put on display against Manchester City, then the result is in little doubt. However, Klopp might want his side to conserve energy a bit and be slightly more pragmatic. This combined with other factors such as potential absence of Salah and a rotated side from Liverpool could lead to lesser attacking fluency from the visitors. On the other hand, Everton are not known for their attacking skills this season and have only scored 38 goals in 32 games so far – one more than what Liverpool have scored away from home. This combination of factors could ensure that the two sides play out one more draw on Saturday.
Everton 1 – 1 Liverpool