04 January 2018

Liverpool v Everton 01.05.17

2:55pm ET, live in the US on Fox Sports 1

Last four head-to-head:
1-1 (h) 12.10.17
3-1 Liverpool (h) 04.01.17
1-0 Liverpool (a) 12.19.26
4-0 Liverpool (h) 04.20.16

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-1 Burnley (a); 2-1 Leicester (h); 5-0 Swansea (h)
Everton: 0-2 United (h); 1-2 Bournemouth (a); 0-0 West Brom (a)

Goalscorers (all):
Liverpool: Salah 23; Firmino 16; Coutinho 12; Mané 8; Can 4; Alexander-Arnold, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sturridge 3; Henderson, Klavan, Lovren, Matip, Wijnaldum 1
Everton: Rooney 11; Calvert-Lewin 7; Niasse 6; Sigurðsson 4; Baines 3; Gueye, Lookman, Vlasic, Williams 2; Keane, Sandro 1

Referee: Bobby Madley (LFC History) (WhoScored)

Guess at a line-up:
Trent A-A Matip Klavan Robertson
Wijnaldum Can Milner
Alex O-C Firmino Mané

I am still not sure how much to care about the FA Cup. Yes, yes, Liverpool exist to win trophies. Klopp's yet to win anything. But Liverpool are also in a way-too-tight battle for top four and in the knockout rounds of the Champions League. Once again, domestic cups are seemingly the lowest priority.

I am always sure how much to care about Merseyside Derbies.

So, yeah, this is gonna be a strong team. This is not going to be last season's, or the season before, FA Cup third round XI. It's Everton; it ain't Exeter or Plymouth.

Salah's doubtful with a minor injury. Coutinho's got another case of transferitis. Mané's gonna be a doubt because he's traveling to the African Cup of Nations awards today – and the same would be true for Salah were he fit – but I don't expect that to keep him out of the squad. Henderson, Clyne, Sturridge, and Moreno remain absent with longer-term injuries.

And, yes, Virgil van Dijk is available, but I suspect it'll be for the bench at best, given he's had all of two days of training and hasn't played since December 13.

But that's about it. And with five days since the last match, Liverpool are more rested than they've been in almost two months. There will be nine days between this and Liverpool's next match, albeit with that next against Manchester City.

So it seems easier than usual to pick Liverpool's XI. I've only got two questions. What happens if Mané doesn't make it back in time? Probably Lallana, who could start regardless, but you'd think he'd be protected if possible considering the last match was his first start of the season. Who starts at center-back? It'll almost certainly be two from Matip, Lovren, and Klavan, but which two?

I mean, maybe we get the 4-4-2 with both Firmino and Salah up front; two from Mané, Lallana, and Oxlade-Chamberlain out wide; and two from Can, Wijnaldum, and Milner in midfield, but I doubt it.

I am contractually obligated to say that "form doesn't matter in derbies" – see: last month – but Liverpool are 16 games unbeaten. Everton were winless over the festive season, with two draws and two losses in their last four games. 0-0 v Chelsea? Not bad! 0-0 at West Brom? Less good. 1-2 at Bournemouth, losing to a late winner? Not great, Bob. 0-2 v Manchester United? This is my surprised face.

Yes, that's one goal scored in the last 360 minutes of football. In case you were curious why Everton are frantically trying to finish a deal for Besiktas' Cenk Tosun before this match. Everton got its Allardyce bounce – unbeaten in his first five matches, including that still-infuriating 1-1 draw at Anfield – but these last four have been an unsurprising descent back to earth. The festive calendar can be cruel, as Liverpool have certainly experienced in previous seasons.

But that won't stop Allardyce from doing Allardyce things. Defend deep, keep Liverpool out, frustrate, frustrate, frustrate and maybe sometimes once or twice try to do a goal. Which have been incredibly annoying for Liverpool in the past, both with Everton last month and every other side in the league that he's managed.

So I suspect that tomorrow's XI will look a lot like the one at Anfield in December. Pickford; Kenny, Jagielka, Williams, Martina; Gueye, McCarthy; Bolasie, Rooney, Sigurðsson; Calvert-Lewin. Jagielka, Bolasie, and McCarthy are back after missing last month's meeting. Maybe Lennon starts in place of Bolasie or Sigurðsson; maybe Schneiderlin in place of McCarthy; maybe Niasse up front, or Tosun if the transfer's done in time. I doubt we'll get 4-4-2 again, as at Anfield, as Allardyce felt the need to switch to 4-2-3-1 at halftime. Baines, Coleman, Stekelenburg, Funes Mori, Keane, and Barkley are all out.

Always be wary of Sam Allardyce's sides. Always be wary of Merseyside Derbies. This almost certainly won't be fun, and wouldn't be fun even if Liverpool were at full-strength. But also remember last month. Remember the form and function we've seen over the last two months. And just beat this lot.

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