19 April 2016

Liverpool v Everton 04.20.16

3pm ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
1-1 (a) 10.04.15
0-0 (a) 02.07.15
1-1 (h) 09.27.14
4-0 Liverpool (h) 01.28.14

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-1 Bournemouth (a); 4-3 Dortmund (h); 4-1 Stoke (h)
Everton: 1-1 Southampton (h); 0-0 Palace (a); 1-1 Watford (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Firmino 9; Benteke, Coutinho 7; Sturridge 6; Origi 4; Lallana 3; Henderson, Ings, Lallana 2; Allen, Can, Clyne, Moreno, Skrtel, Toure 1
Everton: Lukaku 18; Barkley 8; Kone, Lennon 5; Funes Mori 4; Naismith 3; Deulofeu, Mirallas 2; Cleverley, Coleman, McCarthy 1

Referee: Bobby Madley

Guess at a line-up:
Clyne Lovren Sakho Moreno
Milner Stewart Allen
Sturridge Origi

There will be no resting of players in this league match. Not in the Merseyside Derby. Origi's fit after a minor back concern, which leads me to the main line-up question: to diamond or not to diamond?

Central midfield remains a massive concern with both Henderson and Can absent. I have doubts about both Allen and Milner in a midfield two, more the latter than the former. So it seems to me that the diamond is the safest way to protect the midfield while also allowing both Sturridge and Origi on the pitch. Maybe it's 4-2-3-1 with Allen and Milner behind Lallana, Firmino, and Coutinho, or Allen and Stewart/Lucas behind Milner/Lallana, Firmino, Coutinho. Maybe it's 4-3-3 with Allen, Stewart, or Lucas behind two from Milner, Allen, and Coutinho, and a front three of Lallana, Sturridge/Origi, and Firmino.

Liverpool have options in Can and Henderson's absence, but all of those options have potential weaknesses. So, my very-much-layman's opinion is "screw it, play the formation that puts both Sturridge and Origi up front and doesn't lead to a two-man Allen/Milner midfield." Go for the throat, but try not to leave the back door open while doing so.

Like Liverpool, Everton rested a number of usual starters on Saturday. They've struggled recently, winless in five, with two losses and three draws. And like Liverpool, a cup run has seemingly become more important than the league – Everton's winless streak dates back to their FA Cup quarterfinal with over Chelsea, and the semifinal against Manchester United is this Saturday.

Seamus Coleman and Phil Jagielka are definitely out, while Cleverley, Lennon, and Baines are doubtful. My usual suspicion is that anyone doubtful will still magically become available for a Merseyside Derby, but that's probably not the case with the semifinal three days later.

If the three doubtful players don't start, Everton's XI should be Joel; Connolly, Stones, Funes Mori, Oviedo; Barry, McCarthy; Deulofeu, Barkley, Mirallas; Lukaku. If available, Lennon could replace either winger, Baines would replace Oviedo, and Cleverley probably wouldn't start anyway. Regardless of personnel or form, Everton still have Barkley dancing through the middle and Lukaku – who's scored five goals in his last eight games against Liverpool for West Brom and Everton, including the equalizer in October – up front.

And, as cliché as it is, form often means next to nothing in this fixture. We've seen three consecutive draws, albeit all under Liverpool's previous manager. Six of seven derbies under Rodgers finished level, the lone exception the 4-0 Suarez-led mauling in 2013-14. And at the same time, Houllier was the last Liverpool manager to win his first Merseyside Derby, way back in 1999. Benitez lost (away), Hodgson lost (away), Dalglish drew (home), and Rodgers drew (away).

In Klopp's first derby, Liverpool will want to impress, and Liverpool will want to win. On a five-match unbeaten streak, having scored ten goals in the last three games, Liverpool will want to win. And with a win, Liverpool will move up to sixth, just two points off United in fifth.

The Europa League, in eight days, still overshadows what happens in the league. But Liverpool's recent form, notably in matches featuring multiple changes to the side, means the league still matters. And when Liverpool host Everton, it always matters that much more.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

I love these match previews. Please don't ever stop doing them.