No matter how well or how poor their season is going, neither Liverpool or Everton ever want to lose the Merseyside Derby — maybe it’s not as important to the league table as in years gone by, but the significance of it on a local level is rarely surpassed.
Almost all of the standard footballing cliches apply to this meeting of course, but you can chuck them out the window along with the form book. You know what this one is about; showdowns between these two great rivals are a spectacle in and of itself so we can skip the hyperbole and get right down to the nitty-gritty.
After making ten changes to the side that came from behind to beat Borussia Dortmund last Thursday in their Europa League quarter-final second leg, Reds boss Jurgen Klopp is almost certain to tinker again following the comfortable 2-1 win over AFC Bournemouth on Sunday. Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana, Simon Mignolet and Mamadou Sakho should all come back in to the starting eleven, but the burning question remains as to who the German will start up top. Daniel Sturridge scored a goal — his fourth in his last five Premier League appearances — and was the catalyst for another, and though there were rumours that Divock Origi would sit this one out with a back problem, that’s apparently not the case.
?In the game against Bournemouth, I think – and what I have heard so far is – it was cramp with Kolo,” said Klopp in his pre-match presser. ?Divock was only a little bit [of a problem] with the back ? maybe from sitting on the bench! It was not a real issue. ?He felt it a little bit in the game and so we left him out of training yesterday but that was only not to take a risk,” he explained, confirming that the Belgian striker is ready to face the Toffees. ?Before the [Bournemouth] game, Martin Skrtel had a little groin problem but with all the other things [players], there?s nothing new.?
Securing some sort of European football for next season remains the ultimate aim for Liverpool and a win tomorrow would only increase their outside chances of doing just that through the league table — though winning the Europa League still looks to afford their best opportunity of playing on the continent next season. Everton, on the other hand, have vastly different priorities.
Everton boss Roberto Martinez has come in for a lot of criticism this season with the Toffee’s languishing in 12th place and under-performing at every turn. What’s a bit odd though is that they’re only three-points off of their neighbors and a win at Anfield tomorrow would pull them level on points. Still, the narrative in the press and from the terraces remains worlds apart. A trip to Wembley at the weekend for an FA Cup semi-final meeting with Manchester United will provide a well deserved break from the drudgery of league action and an improbable victory tomorrow would be the perfect send off before making their way to the capital.
Without a win in their last ten meetings with the Reds, getting out of Anfield with maximum points might sound like a pipe-dream, and even though Klopp’s side have started to iron out the consistent inconsistencies in their game, this would be the perfect time for them to fall on their faces. After resting Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley in the draw with Southampton at the weekend, the attacking pair will almost certainly be restored to the starting eleven despite the FA Cup looming at the weekend. Still, Martinez will be without key defensive duo Seamus Coleman and Phil Jagielka, but the Spaniard will have some steel and guile back in the middle of the park with James McCarthy set to return from a ban.
The Republic of Ireland man will most likely come up against James Milner and Joe Allen on the other side of the pitch in what’s sure to be a typically fiesty encounter, but Klopp has warned his side that aggressiveness for the sake of aggressiveness will be frowned upon and ultimately will do the side no good. While there’s no question that he’s right, he may be in for a rude awakening in his first Merseyside Derby. I don’t have to tell you that this one isn’t always friendly…