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Can Everton’s new-found sense of resolve secure a result at Anfield?

Everton are on their best run of form since August - but they face their toughest test of the season so far on Sunday

Liverpool v Everton - Premier League Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

18 years and counting.

You have to go back into the last century to find Everton’s last victory at Anfield. Tom Davies and Jonjoe Kenny were in nappies when Kevin Campbell struck the only goal to secure all three points for Walter Smith’s side.

Since then the short trip across Stanley Park has brought nothing but misery. In the 17 league matches since that memorable September night the Toffees have lost nine and drawn eight with an aggregate score of 29-9.

Like England and penalty shootouts, Everton seem to have a mental block when they step out at the home of their fiercest rivals.

Kevin Campbell of Everton

The same can be said of the fans, who collectively dread this fixture more than any other.

There certainly needs to be an attitude change towards derby matches, but I don’t blame the supporters at all. They have witnessed their team capitulate in front of their red neighbours on so many occasions you could forgive them for not even watching the match at all.

You don’t even have to go very far to find some examples - the two 4-0 thrashings under Roberto Martinez were particularly bad.

Liverpool v Everton - FA Cup Semi Final Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The two that stand out for me though are in 2012. In March of that year David Moyes fielded a weakened side ahead of an FA Cup quarter-final and the side promptly lost 3-0, courtesy of a Steven Gerrard hat-trick.

Then, the following month in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, Everton took the lead against their great rivals but eventually slipped to a 2-1 defeat.

To put that in perspective, From January 14th through to the end of that season Everton only lost three times, once to Arsenal and twice to Liverpool.

No matter how well or badly either team has been playing, Everton consistently fail to turn up on derby day.

Will Sunday be any different?

Well, if you asked me a few weeks ago it would have been an emphatic no. The way the team has defended this season combined with Liverpool’s attacking strength made me feel ill.

Everton v Huddersfield Town - Premier League Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

There’s still the very real possibility of an absolute hammering, the defence will still contain the same personnel after all and Liverpool’s forward line is terrifying.

But the arrival of Sam Allardyce and three straight wins in all competitions has begun to rebuild some shattered confidence.

Allardyce’s style of football often gets criticised but what you cannot question is his ability to organise a defence.

Whether he can sort out Everton’s shoddy backline in under a fortnight and with the same players remains to be seen. But you can guarantee that will have been his focus in the week leading up to Sunday.

He also knows that if he can secure a win at Anfield, the first in a generation, then that will quell much of the dissent surrounding his appointment.

He is, after all, the last manager to win at Anfield with Crystal Palace back in April.

All we can do is sit tight and hope, for once, things will turn out differently

The opposition

I really don’t want to devote much time to our loveable neighbours but it would be amiss not to recognise their fine form going into this game.

Jurgen Klopp’s high-octaine, attacking unit look to be hitting peak form just at the wrong time.

Since a disappointing 4-1 defeat at Tottenham in October, Liverpool have won seven and drawn two of their subsequent nine games, scoring a whopping 32 goals in the process.

Liverpool FC v Spartak Moskva - UEFA Champions League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Their front four of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah (I refuse to call them the ‘Fab Four’, urgh) are as good as anything the league can offer.

However, despite all that firepower they still have a soft underbelly. They have Simon Mignolet, they have Dejan Lovren. They can be got at.

I admire the ‘you score one, we’ll score two’ mentality, but it does leave a side vulnerable.

Everton will need to be extremely well drilled and probably need some good fortune. But if they can keep it tight at the back then there will be opportunities at the other end.

Team news

Sam Allardyce has confirmed defenders Michael Keane and Phil Jagielka are fit to return after missing the last two league games.

James McCarthy and Yannick Bolasie are back in training but are still a few weeks away from a return.

Ademola Lookman and Nicola Vlasic may also be involved after impressing against Apollon Limassol on Thursday.

Liverpool will be without Alberto Moreno after the defender was ruled out for six weeks with an ankle injury.

James Milner is likely to start at left-back in Moreno’s place, while captain Jordan Henderson is also expected to come back into the side.

Predicted starting XI

Everton: Pickford, Kenny, Keane, Jagielka, Martina; Gueye, Davies, Rooney; Lennon, Calvert-Lewin, Sigurdsson

Subs: Robles, Holgate, Williams, Schneiderlin, Vlasic, Lookman, NIasse

Final word

History weighs heavily on Evertonian shoulders heading into this one. Liverpool fans -terrible winners at the best of times - are gloating already and predicting an absolute trouncing.

Nothing would give me more pleasure than to see Everton finally hit back in the derby and bring those fans down a few notches.

I’ve witnessed too many painful defeats and capitulation to be confident. So all I have left is blind optimism.