26 September 2014

Liverpool v Everton 09.27.14

7:45am ET, live in the US on NBCSN

Last four head-to-head:
4-0 Liverpool (h) 01.28.14
3-3 (a) 11.23.13
0-0 (h) 05.05.13
2-2 (a) 10.28.12

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-2 Boro [14-13 pens] (h); 1-3 West Ham (a); 2-1 Ludogorets (h)
Everton: 0-3 Swansea (a); 2-3 Palace (h); 4-1 Wolfsburg (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Sterling 3; Gerrard, Moreno, Sturridge 1
Everton: Naismith 3; Mirallas, Lukaku 2; Baines, Coleman, Eto'o, McGeady 1

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Guess at a line-up:
Manquillo Skrtel Lovren Moreno
Gerrard Henderson
Borini Lallana Sterling

I dislike derbies at the best of times – even remembering how the last one ended – but this match definitely comes a week or so too soon.

Both Henderson and Coutinho are questionable, while Sturridge seems slightly more doubtful. And, of course, Allen, Can, Johnson, and Flanagan are all still absent as well.

I shudder to think what Liverpool's midfield will look like if both Henderson and Coutinho miss out. It would probably have to be 4-2-3-1, with Lallana ahead of Lucas and Gerrard, and Sterling and Borini/Suso/Markovic flanking Balotelli. Yes, a 4-2-3-1 with Lucas and Gerrard, remembering that Lucas played 120 minutes on Tuesday, might actually be Liverpool's "best" option. I can't sigh hard enough.

If just Henderson's fit (and I guess I just always expect Honey Badger to be fit), it'll probably be a similar set-up as against Boro, but with Henderson instead of Lucas. 4-2-3-1, with Lallana left, Sterling central, Borini/Suso/Markovic right, and Balotelli up front.

Maybe Rodgers plays three at the back, as we saw in most of the match at West Ham, to mitigate the losses in midfield. Something like Lovren, Skrtel, Sakho; Manquillo, Henderson/Lucas, Gerrard, Moreno; Lallana, Balotelli, Sterling.

If everyone's fit, it's probably the diamond, with Sterling at the apex and Henderson and Coutinho as shuttlers. That'd be ideal. I very much doubt everyone's fit. Liverpool's staff will know far better than I do, but given Sturridge's injury record, you'd have to think he'd be used as a substitute if at all after missing the last three weeks.

Everton aren't in the best shape either, in regards to form or fitness. One win, two draws, and two losses in the league, the worst loss in the last league match, a 2-3 home defeat to Palace at home despite scoring in the 9th minute, for Palace's first league win of the season. Which was followed by a second-string Everton absolutely dismantled by Swansea on Tuesday. On the injury front, Seamus Coleman and Steven Pienaar will be game-time decisions, while Barkley and Kone are assuredly absent.

Their defense has been even more frail than Liverpool, having conceded 13 in the league through six games, by far the most in the league but made worse by letting in six while chasing the match against Chelsea. But Everton have at least been decent in front of goal, with 11 strikes to Liverpool's seven so far.

Martinez's most likely XI (if Coleman and Pienaar are absent) is Howard; Stones, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Barry, McCarthy; Mirallas, Naismith, McGeady; Lukaku. Osman, Besic, or Gibson could start instead of McGeady for more midfield solidity, Atsu could for more counter-attacking pace. But I also assume Coleman will be available, because I always assume the worst.

Maybe it's a good thing that form goes out the window in derbies, as the cliché goes. For both sides. It's obvious, but whoever best remedies the problems which have plagued so far – Everton in defense, Liverpool in all three sections of the pitch – will have the best chance of coming out on top.

Even with European football (albeit the Europa League), matches against Liverpool are often Everton's most meaningful fixtures of the season. But tomorrow's match is even more important to Liverpool. A win tomorrow, remembering how to score against a shaky defense, could reinvigorate Liverpool's season, especially with all those injuries soon to heal. But I'm terrified to think of the effect that a loss would have given what's come before it.

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