04 May 2013

Liverpool v Everton 05.05.13

8:30am ET, live in the US on FSC

Last four head-to-head:
2-2 (h) 11.04.12
2-1 Liverpool (n; FA Cup) 04.14.12
3-0 Liverpool (h) 03.13.12
2-0 Liverpool (a) 10.01.11

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 6-0 Newcastle (a); 2-2 Chelsea (h); 0-0 Reading (a)
Everton: 1-0 Fulham (h); 0-1 Sunderland (a); 0-0 Arsenal (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Suarez 23; Gerrard 9; Sturridge 7; Henderson 5; Agger, Downing 3; Coutinho, Enrique, Skrtel, Sterling 2; Borini, Cole, Johnson, Şahin 1
Everton: Fellaini 11; Jelavic 7; Anichebe, Pienaar 6; Baines, Osman 5; Mirallas 4; Naismith 3; Jagielka 2; Gibson 1

Referee: Michael Oliver

Guess at a line-up:
Reina
Johnson Carragher Agger Enrique
Gerrard Lucas
Downing Coutinho Henderson
Sturridge

So, same as last week?

Liverpool don't have a ton of options. Well, there are options, but few, if any, seem remotely likely. The back six and keeper don't change. And the front four were very good last Saturday. Borini, finally fit and back with a goal within 90 seconds of coming on against Newcastle, could return to the starting XI in place of either Henderson or Coutinho, playing on the left with the other as the attacking midfielder. But it still seems too soon, and there's something of an "if it's ain't broke…" about Liverpool after Saturday's mauling, even though Everton will be night and day different than Newcastle were.

I do worry about Coutinho as the #10 on Sunday. It's hard to forget how Nuri Şahin was wholly muscled out of the game when playing in that role in the reverse fixture. But I'm not sure Henderson would do much better, and expect that he'd be more influential on the left again, whether storming into the box to support the attack or tracking back to protect against crosses from the flank. It'll be up to Coutinho to have a similar impact as he did last Saturday, although assuredly with vastly less time and space than Tiote and Perch provided.

It's hard to take much precedent from the last Merseyside Derby. Eight of Liverpool's starting XI almost certainly won't start tomorrow. Jones, Skrtel, Wisdom, Allen, Şahin, Sterling, Suso, and Suarez will be replaced by Reina, Carragher, Johnson, Lucas, Coutinho, Downing, Henderson, and Sturridge. Except for Liverpool's suspended #7, each of those is an upgrade, massively in the case of the first four.

No slight to Reina, Lucas, or even the dearly departing Carragher, but that Glen Johnson is fit, even if he has disappointed over the last month, might be the biggest difference. Wisdom was roasted by Mirallas and Baines while Everton were ascendant in the first half, prompting the change to 3-5-2 to stop the flood in the second half. Pienaar will probably play on the left tomorrow, with Mirallas on the opposite flank, but Johnson (and Enrique) will remain just as important, as will Liverpool's wingers tracking back to support.

You know what you're going to get from Moyes' Everton. An often over-performing, hard-working side usually built to disrupt the opposition's playing style, something done to excellent effect in both meetings against Rodgers' Swansea last season and for 65 or so minutes in the reverse fixture. Reliant on crosses – something Liverpool often struggle against – featuring the league's top chance creator in Leighton Baines, aimed toward the dangerous Fellaini and Jelavic (even though neither have scored in more in than six weeks).

But despite the preconceptions, no team has had as much possession against Rodgers' Liverpool as Everton did at Goodison. Liverpool took fewer shots in just two matches, at Chelsea and against Tottenham, than the 13 in October's meeting (tallying the same total at both United and Arsenal as well). They truly outplayed Liverpool for the majority of the match, and I am still incredibly bitter about Suarez's last-minute winner being wrongly ruled out.

The only debate in Everton's line-up seems whether Moyes will start with two strikers or three central midfielders. That Darren Gibson's doubtful with a hip injury may force his hand, unless Ross Barkley starts in something of a number 10 role (as he did in the 0-0 at Arsenal). But more likely is Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Mirallas, Osman, Fellaini, Pienaar; Anichebe, Jelavic.

Since September 1999, these fixtures at Anfield have ended one of two ways: either a Liverpool win or a draw; the last Everton win came via a 4th-minute Kevin Campbell goal subsequently followed by two Liverpool sending offs. The Reds are also unbeaten in the last five Merseyside derbies. Liverpool have to continue those streaks if they've any chance of finishing above Everton – although, as Rodgers points out, while it'd be enjoyable, that certainly can't be a goal. And even more, it'd be incredibly poor form to break those streaks in Jamie Carragher's final derby.

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