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Last four head-to-head:
0-2 Everton (a) 10.17.10
1-0 Liverpool (h) 02.06.10
2-0 Liverpool (a) 11.29.09
0-1 Everton (a; FA Cup) 02.04.09
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 1-2 Blackpool (a); 0-1 United (a); 1-3 Blackburn (a)
Everton: 5-1 Scunthorpe (a); 2-1 Spurs (h); 0-2 Stoke (a)
Liverpool: Torres 7; Gerrard 4; Kuyt, Maxi 3; Kyrgiakos, Ngog 2; Babel, Cole, Johnson, Skrtel 1
Everton: Cahill 9; Arteta, Coleman 3; Baines, Beckford 2; Pienaar, Saha, Yakubu 1
Referee: Phil Dowd
The last time Phil Dowd took charge of a Merseyside derby was March 2006. Gerrard and van der Meyde were sent off, Dowd showed yellow to 10 other players, and Liverpool won 3-1.
Guess at a line-up:
Johnson Kyrgiakos Agger Aurelio
Maxi Meireles Lucas Babel
There's no better way to restore confidence than beating the city rivals.
I doubt Liverpool will persist with the 4-3-3 we saw against Blackpool. Whether than leads to 4-1-4-1/4-2-3-1 formation or a 4-4-2 in the absence of Gerrard remains to be seen. At the least, most of the players rested against Blackpool should come back into the side.
Despite recent form, Kuyt has to play. He's called "The Scourge of the Mongrels" for a reason, with four goals and two assists in eight starts against Everton. I'm sure it's just coincidence he was injured for the meeting earlier this season and Liverpool lost 0-2. Actually, yeah, it was coincidence; Liverpool were simply awful that day. But games against Everton are tailor-made for the Dutchman.
I've guessed a 4-4-2 formation to get Kuyt closer to goal, in the hopes it helps raise his game. Maxi should start on one of the flanks, with Babel or Cole on the other; Cole should be fit despite not playing in the last two matches. I think Babel's pace would be more of a boon, but we'll see if he's in contention. I'm tempted to believe he was held out against Blackpool as punishment for the Twitter fiasco which saw him charged by the FA.
Kelly's done a job when called upon in the last two games, and was excellent against United, but I'm still worried about 'too much, too soon.' Playing three tough games in a week is a lot to ask of a 20-year-old defender. I'm guessing a return for Kyrgiakos because of Skrtel's inconsistency – he was back to his shaky ways against Blackpool – not because of his enduring friendship with Fellaini, but it's just as likely that the Slovakian will start on Sunday.
Everton will be without a number of recognizable names. Like Liverpool's Brad Jones, top-scorer Tim Cahill is away at Asian Cup. Leicester have signed Yakubu on loan for the rest of the season. And there are also rumors that Pienaar will be sold in the next couple of days – although some have stated he's just signed a pre-contract agreement – which should preclude his participation as well.
The Blues are level on points with Liverpool, one place ahead of the Reds on goal difference. In the absence of Cahill, Moyes deployed two strikers against Scunthorpe and Tottenham, starting both Saha and Beckford instead of his usual 4-5-1 formation. Arteta's a frequent threat, while young right-winger Seamus Coleman's been in fine form this season.
It's fitting that Dalglish's first game at Anfield is against Everton. Not because Everton were his last opponents during his first stint as Liverpool boss, but because of the importance of Merseyside derbies. Last October's match excepted, Liverpool are almost always up for these games – combative and feisty even during poor runs of form.
This match is massive for both clubs, both just four points above the relegation zone. We've seen much written about turning points and false dawns over the last 18 months, but a win – for either side – on Sunday will set them up well for the rest of the season.
And because of the return of the King, Anfield will be rocking down to its foundation. The team simply has to respond.