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Everton need to shake off the negative mentality – and memories of 2012 – if they are to finally beat Liverpool

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Everton’s fine recent form makes them slender favourites for Sunday’s Merseyside derby, but recent history means the fans are wary of getting too excited….

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Cast your mind back to the early spring of 2012. Preparations for the London Olympics were gathering pace, the Republican presidential primaries were in full swing, and Everton were in fantastic form.

Since the turn of the year David Moyes’ side had lost just twice in 13 games – both in the first week of January – going into the Anfield derby against Liverpool on March 13.

Moyes made several changes to the starting XI for the game with an FA Cup quarter-final against Sunderland coming up four days later, including starts up front for Victor Anichebe and Denis Stracqualursi.

It didn’t work.

Steven Gerrard grabbed a hat-trick in a 3-0 win and one of the more comfortable derby results in recent memory.

Move forward a month and Everton had made it past Sunderland – via a replay – to reach the FA Cup semi-finals against, yep you’ve guessed it, Liverpool.

Everton had lost just once in seven games since their Anfield thrashing, taking their overall form in 2012 to 11 wins, six draws and just four defeats from 21 games in all competitions.

In the weeks immediately prior to their Wembley meeting Everton had won four games out of five, drawing the other, scoring 12 and conceding just two.

Across the park Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish was under increasing pressure, despite a League Cup win against Cardiff in February.

A number of his big-money signings had not worked out and a disappointing league campaign meant even a top four place was looking unlikely (sound familiar?).

Following their penalty shootout win against Cardiff the Reds had lost five out of their following nine games, including three in a row against QPR, Wigan and Newcastle.

Even a dramatic late win against Blackburn the Wednesday before the big game was tainted by the sending off of substitute goalkeeper Doni. With Pepe Reina already banned it would be third choice ‘keeper Brad Jones between the sticks at Wembley.

Jay Spearing was even named in the starting line-up. It was almost too good to be true.

And it was.

In the most ‘Everton’ of Everton defeats, the Toffees surrendered a half-time lead at Wembley in the most painful way possible.

First Sylvain Distin’s short backpass was intercepted by Luis Suarez, before Craig Bellamy’s free-kick came off the back of Andy Carroll’s head to give the Reds victory with three minutes remaining.

The result would prove to be the final straw for many who believed Moyes lacked the mentality to win big matches.

Many supporters also feared there was now a mental block when it came to playing the old enemy from across the park. It is now five years and 10 games since Everton’s last derby win, looking back further it is just two victories in 20 since 2006.

If we had seen a vintage Liverpool side over that period it would be understandable but we haven’t. They have been distinctly average – bar their fantastic run in 2013 – with Dalglish’s team one of the worst since the Graeme Souness era in the early 90s.

That theory was backed up by the results immediately after their Wembley heartache.

Liverpool would go on to lose four of their final six games – including the final against Chelsea – while Everton would remain unbeaten, including a dramatic 4-4 draw against Man Utd at Old Trafford.

They were there for the taking and Everton blew it, big time.

It was a massive opportunity missed and explains why, despite Liverpool’s recent woes, no Evertonian is going into Sunday’s game feeling confident.

Neutrals will point to Liverpool’s recent form that has seen them win just twice in eight matches, with one of those a penalty shootout against League Two Carlisle.

They will look at Everton’s run of just one defeat in nine, including a 3-1 win against champions Chelsea in their last home game.

But neutrals don’t carry the emotional baggage the supporters - and seemingly the players - do in these fixtures.

They have a compelling argument though, and it’s high time we shrugged off inferiority complex and started to believe.

Liverpool are there for the taking once more, and it’s about time Everton grasped that opportunity.