11am EST, live in the US on FSC
Last 4 head-to-head:
2-1 Liverpool (a) 10.20.07
0-0 (h) 02.03.07
0-3 Everton (a) 09.09.06
3-1 Liverpool (h) 03.25.06
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 0-3 United (a); 2-1 Reading (h); 1-0 Inter (a)
Everton: 1-1 West Ham (h); 0-1 Fulham (a); 2-0 Fiorentina (h)
Liverpool: Torres 20; Gerrard 10; Babel 4; Benayoun, Kuyt, Voronin 3; Alonso, Crouch 2; Aurelio, Hyypia, Mascherano, Pennant, Sissoko 1
Everton: Yakubu 13; Cahill 7; Johnson, Lescott 6; Osman 3; McFadden, Pienaar 2; Anichebe, Arteta, Carsley, Jagielka, Neville, Stubbs, Vaughan 1
Referee: Howard Webb
Guess at a squad:
Carragher Skrtel Hyypia Aurelio
Kuyt Gerrard Babel
I don’t want to rehash the last meeting between these two teams, with controversy galore, two penalties, and two sending offs, but there’s one key difference between that game and Sunday’s. Fernando Torres was injured in October.
Liverpool’s line-up in the last encounter was Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Gerrard, Sissoko, Mascherano, Benayoun, Kuyt, and Voronin. Sunday’s team will have at least five changes from that, we should see the 4-2-3-1 again, and Liverpool will assuredly be better for it, as results (aside from last Sunday’s, naturally) over the past six weeks have demonstrated.
But Torres will be the biggest difference, and I’ve little need to explain why. Not only is he Liverpool’s top scorer by some distance, but there are also few strikers in the league like him, and he’s got the potential to give both Jagielka and Yobo fits, although Lescott played in central defense in Everton’s last fixture.
And while I think Lescott would match up with Torres best out of Everton’s defenders, I’m still hoping Lescott starts at center back. You saw his capability to threaten Liverpool down the left in the last match, as he’s done all season, rightfully earning himself appearances with the national team.
Another key difference from the last meeting is Mascherano’s suspension. News today is that Mascherano’s accepted the charge of improper conduct and will have a personal hearing April 3rd, where he could receive a further two-match ban. Hopefully admitting the charge will ease any punishment; I’ll be honest, I was hoping he’d appeal the charge, even though he could receive an extra game punishment, so he’d be available for the Arsenal match next week.
And while Liverpool will always miss Mascherano, the team has a ready-made replacement in Lucas, who saw his first Premiership action in October’s meeting and forced the handball which led to Liverpool’s winning penalty. He has the intelligence and ability to step right into the side with maturity beyond his years, already a Brazilian international at the age of 21.
As mentioned earlier, Joleon Lescott is one of the players Liverpool will have to keep an eye on. With six goals this season (tied with Laursen for most by a defender), he’s done well joining the attack from defense, but a bigger worry will be his effectiveness on set plays, which is something Liverpool’s struggled against of late. That’s the main reason why I’m hoping Hyypia plays with Skrtel in central defense, with Carragher at right back -- to have more capable defenders strong in the air in the box on set plays.
Cahill will miss the rest of the season due to injury, and both Andy Johnson and Pienaar may be absent on Sunday as well, although Pienaar is more likely to feature than Johnson.
Liverpool has to get last week’s result out of the minds as quickly as possible, and having a Merseyside derby, one of the most important matches of the season no matter either side's league standing, to focus on should help. There has to be a positive response to last Sunday’s loss with this match crucial in the battle for 4th and three matches against Arsenal on the horizon. The winner of this game will definitely be odds on favorites for the last Champions League place. But as the second half against Everton last time out demonstrated, Liverpool cannot force the game and must keep their composure as well.
And finally, no matter the result in October, I still very much remember last season’s 0-3 at Goodison. I’d hope the players do as well.