12 March 2012

Liverpool v Everton 03.13.12

4pm ET (stupid daylight saving time), live in the US on espn2

Last four head-to-head:
2-0 Liverpool (a) 10.01.11
2-2 (h) 01.16.11
0-2 Everton (a) 10.17.10
1-0 Liverpool (h) 02.06.10

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-1 Sunderland (a); 1-2 Arsenal (h); 2-2 Cardiff aet (n) [3-2 on pens]
Everton: 1-0 Spurs (h); 1-1 QPR (a); 2-0 Blackpool (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Bellamy, Suarez 6; Carroll 3; Adam, Gerrard, Maxi, Skrtel 2; Henderson, Johnson, Kuyt 1
Everton: Anichebe, Baines, Drenthe, Osman, Vellios 3; Jagielka, Rodwell 2; Cahill, Fellaini, Gibson, Howard, Jelavic, Pienaar, Stracqualursi 1

Referee: Phil Dowd

Guess at a line-up:
Kelly Carragher Skrtel Enrique
Gerrard Spearing Adam
Suarez Carroll Downing

Maybe a knock-down, drag-out, no holds barred Merseyside Derby is exactly what Liverpool need to shake off the current malaise. For once, form's irrelevancy in this fixture might well be a good thing.

Liverpool will assuredly make some changes from Saturday's disappointment. Gerrard should be fit enough to start, Carragher will probably replace Coates (you try keeping him out of a derby). Tomorrow's match probably comes too soon for Johnson, but Dalglish will decide after today's training. Hopefully, Carroll will also come back into the fold after not starting in the last two matches.

Continuing to guess the above 4-3-3ish formation is probably wishing without evidence, but I still firmly believe Liverpool need to change its shape and, more importantly, need to find a way to partner Suarez and Carroll while deploying a three-man midfield to compensate for Adam's flaws and Lucas' absence. The hybrid 4-4-2/4-2-3-1 worked well without results against Arsenal but assuredly didn't work against Sunderland. Admittedly, motivation seemed more at fault than tactics in the latter.

In addition, Suarez has struggled as a out-and-out #9, especially since returning from suspension, with three losses in the last three league matches. It's one thing to play him in that position when he's converting chances, as during last season's run-in. But Suarez has struggled to convert chances all season. At the same time, nine of Suarez's 10 goals this season have come with Carroll on the pitch. Both strikers scored in the reverse fixture, a two-nil win at Goodison.

Liverpool played 4-4-2 in the previous derby, matching Everton's 4-4-1-1, but Rodwell's early sending off admittedly made formation moot. Liverpool pressed, pushed, and attacked for an hour, finally making the break-through against a tiring ten men. Unless Phil Dowd makes a similarly stupid decision, for either side, there's little precedent to be divined. Everton are likely to stick with the same formation, Moyes' clear favorite, with Jelavic as spearhead where Saha was in the last meeting.

In contrast to Liverpool's supremely stuttering form, Everton are unbeaten since January 11, with five wins and four draws since – including victories over City, Chelsea, and Tottenham. But all of those wins came at Goodison, while three of the four draws were away from home, including two against teams currently in the relegation zone. Moyes' sides have rarely travelled well, and he's never beaten Liverpool at Anfield; Everton's last derby away win came in 1999.

Everton's lone injury concern is January signing Darron Gibson, meaning two from Fellaini, Osman, Rodwell, and Neville – most likely the first two – will start in midfield. The back line will probably be Neville, Heitinga, Distin, Baines – unless Jagielka is fit enough to reclaim a place – with Drenthe and Pienaar on the flanks, and Jelavic and Cahill up front. We usually know what to expect from Moyes' side. Everton will be combative in midfield, look to stretch the pitch with width from Baines, Pienaar, and Drenthe, and use Jelavic and Cahill as target-men. Liverpool's central midfielders will have to be smart in possession (attention: Charlie Adam), whoever plays on the right will have to limit Baines and Pienaar's crosses, and Skrtel will have to closely mark Jelavic and/or Cahill.

Despite winning a trophy little more than two weeks ago, Liverpool seem near the precipice. Some are on the edge of revolt, prompted by too little progress and too many unnecessary failings during this transitional campaign. It's one thing when Liverpool lose after a good performance, as against Arsenal, or simply fail to convert multiple chances. It's another entirely when Liverpool lose feebly, hopelessly, and deservedly, as at Sunderland. I still want to preach moderation and patience, but time is running short.

Tomorrow's match will either mute those cries or exponentially increase them. Derbies have a way of heightening any and all emotions. More importantly, if Everton win, they'll leapfrog Liverpool in the table, an unthinkable possibility just a month or two ago. Fair or not, a poor result tomorrow will make the post-Sunderland fervor look warm and fuzzy in comparison.


Alcatrazzledazzle said...

"Everton's last derby away win came in 1999"

That sounds like the kind of challenge this Liverpool squad can rise to!

Mike Georger said...

At least two Cahill goals from set pieces. Jelavic will score as well just to make us look stupid (though I still think he wasn't right for us). And come Wednesday I'm sure all those freaking out will still be lectured by the Anfield Wrap clique.

Ty Schalter said...

Loved your point about Suarez and Carroll. They've spent precious little time on the field together this season, and I think they complement each other so well.

Suarez creates a lot more chances than he finishes; if Carroll is there to bury the dribblers Suarez's productivity jumps by leaps and bounds.

Meanwhile, Carroll seems to have a knack for putting the ball on Luis' boot with a flick of his head or his foot. If Kenny would just put those two together up top for a month, I think the medium- and long-term returns would be fantastic.