7:45am, live in the US on espn2.
Last 4 head-to-head:
2-0 Liverpool (a) 11.29.09
1-1 (h; FA Cup) 01.25.09
1-1 (h) 01.19.09
2-0 Liverpool (a) 09.27.08
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-0 Bolton (h); 0-0 Wolves (a); 2-0 Spurs (h)
Everton: 1-0 Wigan (a); 2-0 Sunderland (h); 1-2 Brum (h)
Liverpool: Torres 12; Kuyt 8; Benayoun, Gerrard 5; Ngog 4; Babel, Johnson 2; Kyrgiakos, Skrtel 1
Everton: Saha 11, Cahill 4; Bilyaletdinov, Pienaar 3; Fellaini, Osman 2; Baines, Donovan, Gosling, Vaughan, Yakubu, Yobo 1
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Guess at a squad:
Carragher Skrtel Kyrgiakos Insua
Kuyt Gerrard Riera
Similar to last match’s line-up, unsurprising with Torres, Benayoun, Johnson, and potentially Agger and Aurelio still out.
I mentioned in the last match review that I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised to see Aquilani start again, but the nearer we get to the match, the more doubtful I am. Not only will it be a tight, frenetic match, as derbies always are, but those in blue will be kicking ankles for 90 straight minutes, which is something Lucas has far more experience with. This is one of those increasingly rare matches where Liverpool still needs two holding midfielders at Anfield, especially with the form Everton’s in.
But the front four should remain the same. There will probably be less switching along the line of three, with Gerrard more central in the absence of a man-marking shadow. But the interplay between Kuyt, Riera, and the captain will be essential in keeping Ngog from being isolated. With Jagielka out for the season, chances are Everton’s centerbacks will be Neville and Senderos.
I’m tempted to think that Agger might return to the first XI now that he’s back in training, and wouldn’t necessarily be surprised to see it happen in place of Skrtel. Aurelio and Kelly are also back, which would allow Insua rest and Carra to return to the middle. But the back four has looked far more secure since Carra went wide and Kyrgiakos became the main organizer, although I obviously worry about their pace with the likes of Pienaar, Donovan, Osman, and Cahill floating around the box, even though main striker Saha isn’t a speed merchant.
Everton are unbeaten in nine league matches, since Liverpool’s 2-0 win in November. It’s also the first time a Liverpool team will face one of my American arch-nemeses in Landycakes, who’s been surprisingly brilliant since coming over on loan. Marouane Fellaini, who gave Liverpool fits when he played for Standard Liege, is also in the form of his life. He was absolutely out of this world against City three weeks ago, and could cause Gerrard and the line of three big problems from his anchor role.
There’s no underemphasizing the importance of the derby, any derby. Given Liverpool’s incremental progress over the last few weeks, a win’s obviously essential. Making those three points even more crucial is the fact that Liverpool’s subsequent matches are against Arsenal and City. This run of games will either hammer the final nail in this season’s coffin or put Liverpool back on the road to where they should be.