February 7, 2015 - 5:30 pm BST, 12:30 EST
TV Info - Live Soccer TV
Referee - Anthony Taylor
Assistant Referees - Gary Beswick and Darren Cann
Fourth Official - Michael Oliver
Let's face it, this season has been pretty much the opposite of what fans expected it to be. Everton sit 12th in the table with a spot in Europe well out of reach. But this Saturday, put that out of your mind because only one thing truly matters and that is beating Liverpool and spoiling Steven Gerrard's final Merseyside Derby.
September's iteration of the Derby was nothing short of spectacular. Down 1-0 going into extra time, Phil Jagielka scored an absolute cracker to end the game in a draw.
Phil Jagielka Derby Goal! https://t.co/2XxHY6K60U— TransferNewsHub (@TransferNewsHub) September 27, 2014
If you want to go ahead and just watch that over and over again, by all means enjoy. But in the mean time, I'll talk about about this upcoming fixture.
Everton received a boost this week when Roberto Martinez announced that James McCarthy should be available for selection this weekend. McCarthy who has been struggling with a hamstring injury would be a welcome sight in the Everton midfield. Tim Howard is also ahead of schedule in his recovery from a calf injury, but is likely to be rested for at least another week. Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar remain sidelined with long-term injuries.
Recent loan signing Aaron Lennon will be available for selection. Everton have been in need of help on the wing all season and they finally did something about it. It will be interesting to see how much time he gets in his first game with the Toffees
Liverpool have been in fine form as of late winning five of their last six league matches including their FA Cup match against Bolton. It is worth mentioning that Liverpool used a full strength line-up in that match and will come into Saturday's fixture on only a few days rest. Needless to say it will be interesting to see what tweaks Brendan Rodgers will make and how Liverpool fare in the second half of the match.
In case you haven't heard, it's also Steven Gerrard's last Merseyside Derby as he is set to join the L.A. Galaxy of Major League Soccer at the conclusion of the season. I won't belabor the point, those in the UK are likely hearing about it on a fairly regular basis and the rest of you probably just don't care about anything relating to Liverpool.
Lazar Markovic and Lucas Leiva are likely to be fit for Saturday's match after suffering knocks Wednesday against Bolton while Brad Jones and Jon Flanagan remain out with long-term injuries.
What to Watch For
Everton have not won a Merseyside Derby since 2010 and I think it's about time we get a win. The season may not be working out as planned but a win on Saturday would go a long way to making this year hurt a little bit less. Romelu Lukaku is little by little looking like the player that we saw last season and I'm looking for him to find the back of the net this weekend.
It will be interesting to see what team Martinez selects for this match. McCarthy is fit, but there were some reports that he suffered a setback this week, so I have doubts that he would go the full 90. Muhamed Besic has been playing great lately and I can't say I'd be upset if he got significant minutes in this game. There is also the question of who plays out wide, Aiden McGeady has been less than stellar this season so Aaron Lennon may get the start on the right side.
As I mentioned earlier, Liverpool are playing on short rest and their fitness may be a question mark. They do have solid options off the bench but many of their regular starters played a full match on Wednesday. I would not be surprised if this game is won late in the second half as players begin to tire from the shortened week. Daniel Sturridge is also fully fit and likely to start. Martinez may have played this off, but Sturridge is a fine striker and is no doubt looking to notch another goal in the Derby.
The Final Word
I want to win this game more than any other game so far this season. This team needs to string some wins together and I can't think of a better game to that in. I want three points, I want a Derby win and gosh darnit I want to see Steven Gerrard leave the field looking absolutely disappointed.
Regardless of what I want, I expect this to be a hard fought game and endlessly entertaining for supporters on both sides. Two of the last three Derbies have been some of the finest football matches I have ever watched and I expect this will be one of them.
Can Everton pull one out and finally score a win against Liverpool? I sure hope so.