27 January 2014

Liverpool v Everton 01.28.14

3pm ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
3-3 (a) 11.23.13
0-0 (h) 05.05.13
2-2 (a) 10.28.12
2-1 Liverpool (n; FA Cup) 04.14.12

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-0 Bournemouth (a); 2-2 Villa (h); 5-3 Stoke (a)
Everton: 4-0 Stevenage (a); 1-1 West Brom (a); 2-0 Norwich (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Suarez 22; Sturridge 11; Gerrard 5; Sterling 3; Coutinho, Skrtel 2; Agger, Flanagan, Henderson, Moses, Sakho 1
Everton: Lukaku 9; Coleman 5; Mirallas 4; Baines, Barkley, Barry 3; Deulofeu, Osman, Oviedo 2; Naismith, Pienaar 1

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Atkinson's done two Merseyside derbies. In his first, a 1-0 Liverpool win in 2009-10, he sent off both Kyrgiakos and Pienaar (and Pienaar should have walked even earlier). In the second, a 2-0 Liverpool win in 2011-12, he (wrongly) sent off Jack Rodwell. This seems ominous.

Guess at a line-up:
Flanagan Skrtel Toure Cissokho
Gerrard Henderson
Sterling Sturridge Suarez

Have I mentioned that I hate Merseyside derbies because I really hate Merseyside derbies.

I especially hate Merseyside derbies when Liverpool have at least five key players absent. Enrique, Agger, Sakho, Lucas, and Johnson are all still injured. Liverpool's four best defenders and the lone defensive midfielders. That's not good.

But Joe Allen might, just might, be fit. And Allen's participation will probably decide the formation Liverpool deploys. If Allen's fit, Liverpool seem certain to play 4-2-2-2, with Gerrard and Allen central, Henderson on one of the flanks, and Coutinho or Sterling – probably the former – on the other side.

If he's not, then my best guess is the above lineup, similar to the formation deployed against Bournemouth with a slight shift in the front three. It might be the same as against Bournemouth, with Suarez ostensibly central but often switching with Sturridge on the right, but I think that the front three used at Arsenal last season could be more effective: Suarez staying on the left more often, Sturridge and Sterling higher up the pitch for more counter-attacking potential. Or, it could be more of the 4-2-4 we saw against Villa with both Coutinho and Sterling on the flanks, but please no. Everton are hoping it'll be that. My heart can't take 90 minutes of that.

Regardless of the front six, there almost certainly will be no surprises at the back. Mignolet back in goal, Skrtel and Toure in the middle, Flanagan in place of Kelly on the right, and Cissokho on the left. Maybe both Kelly and Flanagan start rather than Cissokho, but I doubt it given Kelly's struggles on Saturday.

It's not as if Everton are without injury problems of their own. Barkley, Oviedo, Deulofeu, Gibson, Alcaraz, and Kone will all miss out, while Pienaar, Coleman, and Distin are doubtful. Those players account for 13 of Everton's 35 goals this season, and include Everton's player of the season so far; Coleman's been even more influential than Romelu Lukaku. Still, they've more than enough weapons to punish Liverpool, most notably Lukaku, who's scored in each of his last three league matches against Liverpool.

If all the above players are absent, Everton's XI will most likely be: Howard; Hibbert, Jagielka, Stones, Baines; Barry, McCarthy; Naismith, Osman, Mirallas; Lukaku. But I'd be surprised if both Coleman and Distin were absent, probably because of my natural pessimism. If just one is missing, he'll be replaced by John Stones; if both, Stones and Hibbert. Heitinga's a possibility, but he seems on his way out of the club. New signing McGeady could also start in place of Naismith. Regardless, it'll be a 4-2-3-1 formation, with three central players who'll look to dominate the ball against Liverpool's duct-taped midfield.

Everton have lost just three matches all season, just two in the league, and just once since October 5. But they've drawn more matches than all except West Brom, with nine of their 22 league fixtures ending level. Most of the draws have come on the road, but Martinez's side is equally tough to beat both home and away.

And all three derbies under Brendan Rodgers have been draws: 2-2 away and 0-0 at home last season, 3-3 at Goodison this season. With just one point separating Liverpool and Everton, and with Tottenham (who host Manchester City on Wednesday) sandwiched in between, a win for either side will given them just a bit of much-needed breathing space in the chase for the last Champions League place.


Anonymous said...

4 days that will go a long way determining whether we have any legitimate shot at achieving CL football this season.

Arsenal, Chelsea, City and United will all likely spend big this summer and have the capacity to hugely outspend us every year in terms of transfer fees and wages which are even more critical in retaining and acquiring top top talent. When Arsenals new commercial deals, Chelsea Gazprom deal and City's Abu Dhabi sultans "whatever deals they cook up" get effectuated, I would anticipate their 2014/15 revenues to be £100 mil or more in excess of ours. That is an extraordinary and transformative amount of augmented ANNUAL spending capability. For 4 teams.

The opportunity to achieve CL football may not come again for quite awhile. Get it done boys! JH, TW, BR, get on it. 4 days left before the window Slams shut. Let's make sure our head is not in it.

Vercingetora said...

Can't thInk of a bigger match for the Reds over the past several years. It will have a huge impact on he race to fourth spot Champions league football will give us the cash to compete with the other four clubs above, the stature to sign another world class player, and allow us to keep Suarez.

For me, the lineup should be the following or a 4-3-3 using the same personnel with Gerrard as the regista. It might be scary but I get the logic and have faith in BR and Stevie.

Flanno. Skrtel. Toure. Cisskho
Gerrard. Allen
Sterling. Hendo. Suarez

Anonymous said...

The secret's out. Press Gerrard up the pitch and he disappears. If the championship teams can easily do it effectively, I'm sure Bobby Martinez won't hesitate to put the heat to him.

The sooner this seriously awful and flawed experiment ends the better. Clearer heads have to prevail. Might not have many options today. If Allen is available, let SG be the one to play around the corner and have Joey stay at home. If Allen is not actually available, as Rodgers has said, expect SG to get steamrolled again. I can't begin to imagine what might happen after 60 minutes of high pressing by Everton.

Big match. We'll see how she goes.

Vercingetora said...

Allen not in the starting lineup, not even on the bench. Rodgers was bluffing (like he has been for sometime with Sakho).

So, we will get to see how awful or not awful Gerrard actually is. Hendo needs to stay home as well though.

Vercingetora said...

&*%$, oh the lies and deceit! Barkley and Pienaar were supposed be injured, but they're starting!