Well then, this is a big game isn't it. There's a piece by Alan Hansen in the Telegraph about the game and he suggests its the biggest derby for thirty years concluding that Everton have more to lose than Liverpool. Actually the expectation is all on the team from Anfield. They've spent the money, have home advantage, are unbeaten for fourteen years at home in the derby, and always expecting to qualify for the Champions League. Read that and which team is really under pressure?
Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way first, the Liverpool team news. They’re missing a few players themselves, Jose Enrique, Daniel Agger, Lucas Leiva and Glen Johnson, with Joe Allen and Mamadou Sakho being doubtful. Still, this unfortunately means that their Uruguayan goal machine is available. Onto more important things, and onto the list of season long absences, Arouna Kone and Darron Gibson, we can now add the unfortunate Bryan Oviedo. Add to that the major doubts over Seamus Coleman, Sylvain Distin, Antolin Alcaraz, Ross Barkley and Steven Pienaar, the slight doubt over Phil Jagielka, and the definite absence of Gerard Deulofeu, Roberto Martinez is going to struggle to name a squad of sixteen. For my money I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least three of those ‘major’ doubts be in the matchday squad, you get a feeling that we wouldn’t risk Pienaar or Barkley against Stevenage but they have a chance for the derby. Even so, the performance of Steven Naismith, Kevin Mirallas, and Aiden McGeady at the weekend give us hope even if we are missing the influential attacking players, and Leon Osman and Tony Hibbert are experience Premier League players. And expect to see Romelu Lukaku return to the team.
Keys To The Game
The 3-3 draw back in November show that both Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez are fans of attacking football, and with the potential absences it won’t be a surprise to see goals again tonight. An important factor in the game will be who lines up in the centre of the Everton defence, John Stones has looked assured in his appearances so far but he hasn’t faced anyone near the quality of Luis Suarez, and you would worry about the youngsters ability to cope. It’s a different picture if Jagielka and Distin are fit, their experience and combination of pace and reading of the game will be an interesting match up against the pace, movement, and cleverness of Daniel Sturridge and Suarez. At the other end of the pitch the battle between an off-form Lukaku and on-form Kevin Mirallas and the likely Liverpool pairing of man mountain Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure should be interesting. You can see Lukaku being handled well but the Czech defender but Mirallas and his pacey trickery could well be a key player in and open and attacking game. Finally, the use of substitutes may turn out to be important, as the previous game this season showed. A good use of them can win or lose a game and Roberto Martinez has proved to be an astute user of subs in his short tenure at Goodison.
Liverpool are unbeaten in the last 13 Anfield derby games, since Kevin Campbell scored the winner in a heated derby in 1999.
Tony Hibbert and Leon Osman have the most Premier League derby appearances for Everton, with 17 each.
Everton are 15 games unbeaten in the month of January.