27 November 2009

Liverpool at Everton 11.29.09

8:30am, live in the US on Setanta

Last 4 head-to-head:
1-1 (h; FA Cup) 01.25.09
1-1 (h) 01.19.09
2-0 Liverpool (a) 09.27.08
1-0 Liverpool (h) 03.30.08

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 1-0 Debrecen (a); 2-2 City (h); 2-2 Brum (h)
Everton: 2-3 Hull (a); 0-3 United (a); 2-1 West Ham (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Torres 10; Benayoun, Gerrard 4; Kuyt, Ngog 3; Babel, Johnson 2; Skrtel 1
Everton: Saha 8; Bilyaletdinov 2; Baines, Cahill, Fellaini, Gosling, Osman, Yobo 1

Referee: Alan Wiley

Guess at a squad:
Johnson Carragher Agger Aurelio
Lucas Mascherano
Kuyt Gerrard Benayoun

After the Champions League kick to the crotch on Tuesday, it’s a Merseyside derby. I’m not sure how to feel about this.

On the one hand, there are few fixtures as noteworthy as this. If the team can’t get hyped for Everton, they’re beyond help. On the other, it’s yet another massive fixture, when the team still isn’t fully fit, against a side that Liverpool twice drew last season. Each game this month has taken years off my life, and I doubt this one will be any different.

Torres’ inclusion will come down to a late fitness test – which is much better news than we’ve been subjected to recently, but I still doubt he’ll be ready enough to start. It’s been nearly a month since he last featured, in the first match against Lyon. Otherwise, only Babel and Kelly are assuredly out.

I know, I was crying out for Aquilani earlier in the week, and I’m not the only one. Yet, having slightly calmed down, I’m not entirely surprised at his lack of playing time. The bumpy pitch in Hungary could have re-injured his ankle, and it wasn’t worth throwing him on in a dead rubber away match. And this is another contentious fixture; the Blues usually spend 90 minutes kicking anything that moves. Might not be the best match for a midfield debut, although I dearly hope he sees some time off the bench.

I also hope to see both Aurelio and Benayoun on the left. Regular readers know my favoritism toward Insua, but the young left back demonstrably needs a rest and this game’s crying out for Aurelio’s safe hands. That Benayoun only featured off the bench on Tuesday, for less than 15 minutes, means he should be ready to go for 90 on Sunday. And his dribbling and vision will be crucial against a team like Everton. Maybe Benayoun will replace Kuyt – who’s been in terrible form – and Insua/Aurelio will patrol the left flank again, but the above option seems far more likely.

Two wins since October 1 – one win in 10 games (sound familiar?) – yet Everton sit only five points behind Liverpool. It’s been an exceptionally ignominious couple of days for the both halves of Merseyside – Everton lost 2-3 at Hull on Wednesday (down 0-3 within 30 minutes) and the UK government rejected plans for the new stadium in Kirkby. Naturally, it makes me fear an Everton result even more than usual. Liverpool’s not the only club that plays best backs against the wall.

Everton’s struggling with injuries as much as Liverpool, if not moreso with Liverpool players finally getting healthy. Anichebe, Arteta, Jagielka, Neville, and Vaughan are all definitely out, while Rodwell, Osman, and Pienaar are all fighting to be fit.

If Liverpool ever needed a derby win, it’s Sunday. I look forward to spending 90 minutes on the edge of my seat, breathless and with no fingernails.

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