For the top teams in England, the quest for FA Cup begins now, as the third round of the competition will be played this weekend. There are a few all Premier League ties in this round, the most prominent being Liverpool vs Everton at Anfield on Sunday afternoon.
Liverpool are at the top of the league with 58 points from 20 games and come into this game having negotiated a large part of the fixture-congested holiday period without dropping any points. This FA Cup tie precedes two crucial Premier League fixtures against Tottenham (Away) and Manchester United (Home) and Jurgen Klopp was quite vocal in expressing his displeasure at the possibility of having to play a replay against Everton between those two games. While he knows that his side is knackered to some extent, he will hope that a right mix of experience and youth will allow Liverpool to overcome Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton.
Just as Liverpool have not conceded a home goal since the two they conceded to Everton in the last meeting between the two sides, Everton have also turned their form around to some extent. That 5-2 hiding at Anfield led to the departure of Marco Silva from Goodison Park and since then the Toffees have lost only one game – away at Manchester City in the last game. While the caretaker manager Duncan Ferguson managed to lead Everton to a win against Chelsea and a couple of draws against Manchester United and Arsenal, Carlo Ancelotti took over the reins and presided over two wins – against Burnley and Newcastle United, before the loss to City. Ancelotti will be hoping that his side can keep their form at Anfield, which is of course much easier said than done.
- Liverpool are unbeaten in last 20 competitive games against Everton in all competitions. The last time the Toffees managed to beat the Reds was in 2010. The latest win for Liverpool against their neighbours came earlier in the season when they beat Everton 5-2 at Anfield.
- Liverpool come into this game having beaten Sheffield United 2-0 at home on Thursday night. They have a seemingly unchallengeable lead at the top of the Premier League, with 58 points in just 20 games. Even more scary is the fact that they have a game in hand over the chasing pack, the nearest of whom (Leicester) are 13 points behind.
- No such league dominance has been on show from Everton, who are a full 33 points behind Liverpool as of now. Still, the Toffees have largely turned their form around a bit ever since Carlo Ancellotti moved to Goodison Park. While they did lose their last game to Manchester City (2-1 away on Wednesday night), they remained unbeaten in the previous four, which included clashes with Leicester City, Manchester United and Arsenal (all under Duncan Ferguson).
- Carlo Ancelotti is one of the few managers who have won more against Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp than they have lost. The two have faced each other six times, with Klopp winning twice and drawing once, while losing he other three games. Indeed, Ancelotti is the only manager to have beaten Klopp this season, when his Napoli got the better of Liverpool in the first gameweek of UEFA Champions League.
Whether Klopp plays a skeleton side to rest his first team or whether he plays most of his best XI in order to beat Everton once again, it is fair to say that Takumi Minamino, who joined Liverpool from RB Salzburg on January 1, will likely make his debut for the Reds. The 24-year old has already scored 5 goals and assisted 5 in the Austrian Bundesliga in the first half of the season He has also scored twice and assisted three goals in the Champions League. While none of his goals scored or assisted were against Ancelotti’s Napoli, in games against Liverpool, he gave ample evidence of his attacking talents. Jurgen Klopp will hope that his debutant in 2020 can score against Everton in the 3rd round of FA Cup at Anfield, just like Virgil van Djik (debutant in 2018 against Everton in the 3rd round of FA Cup at Anfield) had.
Dominic Calvert Lewin
Calvert Lewin has gained some form since his side’s 5-2 hiding at Anfield in the league a month back. Since then, he has scored a brace against Chelsea and then another at St. James’ Park against Newcastle. Prior to Newcastle, he also scored a goal against Burnley at home. His xG per 90 minutes of 0.50 in the league is extremely healthy and his new manager will hope that Calvert Lewin will be able to translate that league form into the FA Cup as well.
For Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp will be torn between playing a strong available team and resting his key players for the relentless stream of fixtures that keep coming Liverpool’s way. The fact that the Reds have only “14 adult players and kids” to choose from does not help the German in any way. Matip, Shaqiri, Fabinho, Lovren, Oxlade Chamberlain, Clyne and Brewster are all injured and will not feature. Naby Keita limped off before the game against Sheffield United and will likely not play any part on Sunday. This could mean a start of a bunch of youngsters, including Neco Williams, Curtis Jones, and Harvey Elliott, in addition to starts for rotation players like Adrian, Lallana and Origi. All this in addition to a much-anticipated Anfield debut for the new signing Minamino.
For Everton, Ancelotti might be tempted to choose a strong side as he knows that this is a good chance for his side to win at Anfield. He has a few injury concerns to contend with – Bernard, who was injured in the warm-up against Manchester City, in addition to Gbamin, Iwobi and Gomes are all sidelined. Morgan Schneiderlin may be back fit to feature at Anfield, giving Ancelotti an option to field a 4-4-2 formation. The likes of Baines, Kean, Walcott and Tosun may also feature on Sunday.
Klopp was quite emphatic in his dislike for FA Cup replays. So, he will want his side to not settle for a draw. He will want them to grab a win or lose in doing so. But, given the wave of confidence Liverpool are riding and the fact that the game is at Anfield, it is likely that the Reds will progress further into the FA Cup and not their neighbours.
Liverpool 2 – 1 Everton