After getting David Moyes' tenth anniversary week off to a cracking start with a home win against Tottenham, Everton cross Stanley Park to take on Merseyside rivals Liverpool tomorrow in a game that will have more than just bragging rights at stake. Unbelievably enough for the blue half of the city, if Everton beat Liverpool tomorrow they will leapfrog them into seventh place! Could there be a better way to celebrate a decade of Moyes' leadership at Goodison, a win over the Reds and going above them in the table? For those keeping score at home, this is the 217th derby played between the two clubs, Everton having won 66, drawn 64 and lost 86; hardly any of them in recent times has been for the faint of heart, and neither will the latest installment.
Of course, before that remains the small matter of ninety-odd minutes where the Blues will be severely tested by a Reds squad that has been urged by captain Steven Gerrard to up their game for the derby. Twitter-fuelled rumours of a 'Kenny Out' protest march by some disgruntled Reds before the game should help stir the pot some, as would a mock protest of 'Kenny In' by some jubilant Blues who have watched with undisguised amusement as the managerial merry-go-round at Anfield is being cranked up once again in the ten years Moyes has been in charge. The derby remains a monkey on Moyes' back though, with four wins, six draws and eleven losses in the decade.
All jokes aside though, this should be an excellent game with lots at stake for both sides. With both sides facing important FA Cup fixtures, a win tomorrow will provide a big confidence boost going into the weekend. Everton come in riding high on the crest of their seemingly-annual New Year resurgence, unbeaten in their last nine fixtures across all competitions. Liverpool on the other hand have had some 2012 success winning the three-handled
chamber pot trophy also known as the Carling Cup; otherwise they have been quite mediocre with only one Premiership win this year, their loss against Sunderland on Saturday marking the first time the Anfield side have lost three league games in a row since 2003. An Everton win tomorrow will be the tenth game unbeaten, marking ten years of Moyes at manager, and ten years since Liverpool lost four straight. #10for10for10 anyone?!
There is only one long term injury for Everton, with Darron Gibson still out. This could be crucial for the Toffees as he would have been expected to nullify the Liverpool midfield from whence a lot of their attacking play commences. Phil Jagielka, Jack Rodwell and Seamus Coleman are all back from injury and played against Spurs. It remains to be seen if Moyes stays with the Sylvain Distin - Johnny Heitinga pairing in defence and bringing in Jagielka for cover. New signing Nikica Jelavic opened his Everton account in his first full appearance and should start again while Steven Pienaar returns to the squad after being ineligible to play against Spurs.
Liverpool should have talismanic captain Gerrard starting after he came on with half an hour to play in the last defeat. Lucas Leiva is out for the season and Daniel Agger is not likely to feature. Glen Johnson is doubtful with a hamstring injury. Jamie Carragher may return to the center of defence to counter Everton's aerial threat while Jay Spearing could keep Charlie Adam out of the starting XI after a decent showing over the weekend in midfield.
Keys To The Game
Everton have not won at Anfield since 1999, with a run of seven draws and five Liverpool wins in that time. For Moyes to finally taste success a couple of pieces need to fall into place, most important being a game fairly refereed by Phil Dowd. Not to say that previous games have or have not been, but a card-slinging mentality is not going to make for a good derby fixture. Red cards have become quite the staple in this twice-annual fixture, with twenty being handed out in the twenty years or so since the Premiership was founded. Rodwell's dubious dismissal* a quarter way into the Goodison fixture earlier in the season paved the way for a Reds win, and you can expect Moyes to have drilled the mercurial Royston Drenthe into staying in line. Just to put that into perspective, Everton were last awarded a penalty in Anfield in 1988, when Moyes was busy scoring one of his eleven goals with Shrewsbury Town.
The Toffees will need to play like this is a home fixture - while there should be some away support, they will need to treat this game like they have the matches against Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham. Too often on the road Everton sit back and attempt to take the sting out of the home attack, and rely on counterattacks to win the game. We have seen that aggression in relevant parts of the field has paid off dividends and even Moyes' 4-4-1-1 can be dangerous, provided Pienaar and Seamus Coleman are at their best and Tim Cahill is tracking back and forth linking up play with the sole striker. Jelavic looked good on Saturday and a solid hour from him followed up by Denis Stracqualursi should keep the Reds occupied in their own half.
Meanwhile for Liverpool Dirk Kuyt once again should be the key man on the field. As long as he is running well and passing accurately there is a supply line to the strikeforce, and his five derby goals are testament to this. Controversy dogs whoever the Reds line up at forward - Luis Suarez, Andy Carroll or Craig Bellamy, and both sides will do well to steer clear of any extra-curricular activities. Liverpool will attempt as always to maintain the bulk of the possession in the midfield area, trying to draw Everton out of position before dumping the ball behind the backline for the forwards to chase.
- The archrivals have both struggled to score this season - Everton have 28 goals while Liverpool have managed 30.
- However, the two teams are both in the top four of the league's best defences, Everton giving up 28 goals and Liverpool 26.
- Only two managers before Moyes have faced ten consecutive years of derbies, Bill Shankly and Harry Caterick.
- Everton have done better in gaining points from losing position, 4th in the league with 10, while Liverpool have only 5.
- On the flip side, the two teams are tied in losing points from winning positions, giving up 9 pts each.
- Liverpool have scored first in 50% of their games while Everton have scored first in 44% of theirs.
* - The red card was later rescinded by the FA, too late for Everton though.