The 221st Merseyside derby, the 189th in the league, will see two former Swansea City managers go head to head at their new clubs for the first time. Brendan Rodgers time in Wales came a little after Roberto Martínez's, but the philosophy with which his Swansea, and now Liverpool team, was highly lauded for were the Spaniards ideals first. As a result, this could lead to one of the stranger Merseyside derbies we have seen in a while, as both teams will likely adopt the measured, patient approach both their managers favour.
However, such ideals are known to be thrown out the window on these occasions, and the Merseyside derby is often a case of studs flying and high passion above anything else, with Goodison Park at full, foundation-rocking volume. This is shown in the red card stats, where Everton have a massive eight red cards compared to their opponent's one in the last twelve meetings, with Liverpool having won seven of these meetings as a result. However, many Evertonians will remember ridiculous refereeing decisions such as Jack Rodwell's sending off that have polluted those statistics.
Both teams enter this encounter after completely different results before the international break. Whilst Liverpool were beating an lacklustre Fulham side 4-0 at Anfield, Everton were failing to beat bottom placed Crystal Palace. Both however occupy top six places and are hardly doing badly, despite Everton failing to score in their last two fixtures. Kopites are already using the age-old ‘this is our year' statement, but cynics would rightfully point to them only having faced a poor Manchester United side, who they beat, and Arsenal, who beat them resoundingly. When they have faced other contenders, such as Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham, we will see their title credentials in a better light.
Liverpool will be without José Enrique, whilst Steven Gerrard has a thigh injury and Daniel Sturridge has been nursing an ankle injury for several weeks. However, neither are likely to be injuries that will prevent them starting. Defenders Sebastian Coates and Kolo Toure are out injured, whilst forward Iago Aspas is out until December with a muscle injury.
Keys to the match
As mentioned earlier, both teams are not likely to stray too far from their preferred possession-based philosophies. Everton will have to avoid being overly reliant on Romelu Lukaku, who has struggled in his last two games, and equally avoid the long ball to the Belgian dependency that has caused them to become very predictable at times. Big performances will be needed from Everton's attacking midfielders, especially Kevin Mirallas who has been disappointing thus far. They will also need to find a way of nullifying Liverpool's attacking pair of Suárez and Sturridge, and could take a leaf out of Arsenal's book for this particular problem. If Martínez was to be brave, he would go for broke and play both Ross Barkley and young Spaniard Gerard Deulofeu, who impressed for the Spanish U-21s last week, from the start, though this is unlikely to happen.
Liverpool on the other hand will play their attacking football, but do tend to count too much on the aforementioned striking partnership. This pairing has scored sixteen goals between them so far, with Gerrard their next highest scorer on two. Without their goals, the team would actually have a goal difference of minus five goals and not be in such a lofty position. However, to suggest that only those two can cause problems for an opposition side would be to ignore the talents of Phillipe Coutinho, Victor Moses and captain Gerrard who can all change a game. Gerrard in particular is always one to up his performance on derby day, as his hattrick in March 2012 demonstrates.
In truth, there is absolutely no manner in which to predict derby games, as they are often balanced on a knife edge. With both teams focusing on possession there is the potential for the game to simply fizzle out although the passion of the occasion should help to reduce that risk. If Everton can find a way of nullifying their opponents striking partnership, as Arsenal did to such great effect at the Emirates, they have a massive opportunity to record their first victory in this fixture since 2010. They must also use Lukaku to his full potential. If he plays as well as we know he can, he is impossible for any team to handle, but the midfielders must also produce and give him the ammunition to hurt their opponents.
Liverpool currently lead the way in victories in this fixture, with eighty-seven wins in all competitions compared to Everton's sixty-six.
Last season's 0-0 draw was the first time either team has failed to score in this fixture since a similar result in February 2007.
This fixture has produced the most red cards, twenty, of all the Premier League games.
Everton are unbeaten in fourteen home games at home in 2013 and have not conceded a goal in five hours and thirty minutes.
Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge are the Premier League's joint top goal scorers with eight goals, alongside Sergio Aguero. Romelu Lukaku has scored five goals in comparison.
Defensively, both teams have had the same number of goals scored against them so far, with both shipping ten each.