Sunday 2nd December 2018
So it’s that time of the year again, the most dreaded day of the season for fans of the Toffees as they make their way across the park to take on neighbours, Liverpool, as the 232nd Merseyside derby is contested. The Blues are now unbeaten in three, including a draw away to Chelsea in the process.
Last week saw the Toffees overcome an organised Cardiff side at Goodison with Gylfi Sigurdsson’s goal proving decisive. Liverpool remain unbeaten in the league with Jurgen Klopp’s men sitting pretty in 2nd. Last week, the Reds comfortably beat Watford away in a game where they were forced to remain patient, eventually running out 3-0 winners. However, they did fall to a defeat in the Champions League on Wednesday night, losing 2-1 to PSG.
Whilst last week wasn’t the most entertaining of performances, it was pleasing to see Everton remain composed and patient and eventually break down their opponents. Cardiff turned up with the obvious plan of sitting back and soaking pressure, as they looked to hold out for a point.
However, the composure and relentless pressure of the hosts eventually paid off when Gylfi Sigurdsson was able to tap in from close range on the hour mark. Obviously three points was an expectation before the contest but to see the side able to remain focused was a massive positive as it displayed that this side is more than capable of winning ugly when needed, something that over recent times, has hugely lacked. As well as that, it was another clean sheet with the solidity of the team looking stronger as the weeks pass.
Andre Gomes put in another superb performance last week as the midfielder ran the game. The spark he has added to the side has been exactly what Everton have needed and the Portuguese central man has certainly made a fantastic early impression on fans, quickly establishing himself as a key man. Fellow new arrival, Yerry Mina has also started life at the club in impressive fashion, as in his two games so far the side has kept two clean sheets and the Colombian looks like he is settling into life on Merseyside nicely. Aswell as his defensive work, the centre back also looks a huge threat from set pieces, which won’t be a surprise to those that witnessed his World Cup displays.
Everton are in good shape heading into Sunday’s derby. Jonjoe Kenny is again expected to miss out, but is the only absentee for the Blues.
Liverpool have looked incredibly strong so far this campaign. The Reds appear to have resolved their defensive issues at long last, conceding just the five goals in their 13 league games. Whilst unbeaten and looking a shoe in for being in the title race, many believe Klopp’s men havent hit the heights going forward that was seen last year. The side seem a more reserved and defensively aware outfit, which to be fair is exactly what they have lacked in recent times. With the club sitting second whilst not being at their best, the Reds can certainly look to the future with encouragement.
Last week in their game at Vicarage Road, a cagey first 45 saw both sides looking dangerous going forward, with chances at both ends, both keepers being called into action on several occasions. The best chance fell to Mohamed Salah after the Egyptian found himself free inside the box but Ben Foster was equal to the header. The sides remained 0-0 at half time.
The second half saw Liverpool up the tempo and begin to put Watford under some real pressure. That pressure finally paid off for the Reds as on 67 minutes, Salah finished a well worked goal as he found himself able to steer a Sadio Mane cross home. Just nine minutes later and the game was all but won, Adrian Mariappa gave a free kick away just outside of his own box as the defender was judged to have pulled Roberto Firmino’s shirt. Full back Trent Alexander-Arnold stepped up and finished superbly as the Englishman beautifully curled the ball past Ben Foster.
Into the last ten and with the game now looking over, the Reds were reduced to 10 men as Jordan Henderson was given his marching orders after picking up a second yellow of the game for a needless challenge on Etienne Capoue. However, it made little difference to the outcome of the contest as in the 89th minute, Firmino made it three after he was able to head home from close range following a Ben Foster parry.
Similarly to Everton, Liverpool also head into the derby in good shape. Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain both remain out and are the only injuries for the Reds. Jordan Henderson will miss out after the midfielder’s dismissal against Watford last week.
Going into Sunday, it’s a very difficult one to call, as both sides have looked strong so far and both look as though they will enjoy decent campaigns. The Blues have looked so refreshing when going away to the top six this year, as a newly found fearlessness has been deployed and the eagerness to get forward and cause problems of their own has been impressive. Liverpool, as mentioned above have seemingly sorted their defensive worries and look likely to be right up there this season. Anfield is always a seriously difficult place to go, especially for Everton, with their last victory coming all the way back in 1999. However, this is probably the most optimistic fans have felt going into a derby at Anfield in a long time.
Could it finally be the day the Blues end their Anfield miseries or will it be the same old story?
Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Keita, Milner; Mane, Firmino, Shaqiri; Salah.
Everton: Pickford; Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne; Gueye, Gomes; Walcott, Sigurdsson, Bernard; Richarlison.
Liverpool 1-1 Everton.