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Everton at Liverpool: The Opposition View

We spoke to journalist and Liverpool fan Jack Sear prior to Sunday’s Merseyside Derby

Liverpool v Everton - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round
Everton faced Liverpool at Anfield in the league and the FA Cup last season
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Everton will look to arrest their dreadful derby record when they cross Stanley Park to face Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.

The Blues’ last win against their nearest rivals came in October 2010, and have not won on enemy territory since Kevin Campbell’s early goal sealed a 1-0 victory in September 1999.

But Everton will take encouragement from their own positive recent form, comprising one defeat in the last seven and being them only team this season to keep a clean sheet at Chelsea.

Liverpool, meanwhile, sit second, just two points off leaders Manchester City, and their front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané have 21 goals between them already this term.

But they come into this game on the back of a 2-1 Champions League defeat at Paris Saint-Germain, leaving the Reds with an uphill task to qualify for the last 16.

Ahead of Sunday’s derby, we spoke to Jack Sear, a freelance sports journalist and Liverpool fan, on his thoughts on Jürgen Klopp’s side and what he expects from the game:

RBM: Firstly, have Liverpool improved from last season, and if so by how much?

Jack: I’d say we have. The big improvement has been in defence and that’s an area where we’ve needed to improve for some time. We’ve kept the most clean sheets in the league along with City and we’ve had to rely on our back line to grind out results on a few occasions.

The attack hasn’t been at its best as a unit but the likes of Salah and Mané are still lethal in the final third. We seem to have evolved a bit as a team and are focusing more on managing games than we were last season. There’s no room to slip up, though, if we want to win the title.

RBM: Klopp has yet to win a trophy at Liverpool despite reaching three finals. Now into his third full season in charge, can this campaign still go down as a success if Liverpool again end it without silverware?

Jack: Liverpool is all about trophies. It’s what the club is built on. It’s obviously been a long time since we managed to win one and everyone would like to see us get some silverware sooner rather than later, but I don’t think anyone is in any doubt that we’re on the right path and that trophies are on the way.

Klopp is one of the best managers in world football and he’s still building up this squad. This is the first season for some time where our bench has looked very strong every week. It would be a disappointment if we didn’t manage to land a trophy this season though. The FA Cup has to be a target.

Real Madrid v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Final
A dejected Jurgen Klopp walks past the UEFA Champions League trophy
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

RBM: Are you concerned that the PSG defeat will have dented confidence ahead of the derby?

Jack: No, if anything I think it will work the other way and we’ll be even more eager to get three points on Sunday. It was a very frustrating match and it’s a good job we’ve got another game so soon and an opportunity to put it behind us.

RBM: Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson was sent off in last weekend’s 3-0 win at Watford so will sit out the derby. How much might the Reds miss him on Sunday?

Jack: He’s an important player for us so he will be missed, but I think there’s a chance he’d have been on the bench for this one anyway. Either that or he’d have sat out the PSG game in midweek.

I think Fabinho will probably come back into the side but Klopp perhaps would have wanted to have the option to play Henderson in a derby seeing as he’s the club captain and he’s played in a lot of them before.

RBM: Do you feel less confident at all about this derby than previous meetings given Everton’s recent form and general improvement under Marco Silva?

Jack: I wouldn’t say less confident as our record in the derby, particularly at Anfield, is excellent. I’m always confident we’ll show up.

But there’s definitely been an improvement at Everton this season and it’s about time too!

RBM: Silva’s Everton will not be as negative as Sam Allardyce’s side were at Anfield last season, despite escaping with a point that day.
But do you feel the only way to stop Liverpool currently is to be as defensive-minded as Everton were last season?

Jack: No, definitely not. There are quite a few teams that have caused us problems by attacking us this season and with the likes of Gylfi Sigurðsson and Richarlison, you have players that can trouble us. If you sit back and let us play then we’re probably likely to pick you apart eventually, just as we did at Watford FC last week.

Klopp said the other night that this Everton side is a lot different to the one’s he’s faced in recent years and I’d expect you to attack us. It’s a risk as it could play into our hands, but I highly doubt Silva will change his philosophy. It should be a good game to watch.

Liverpool v Everton - Premier League
Wayne Rooney’s late penalty rescued a point Everton barely deserved at Anfield last season
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

RBM: What is the one area of the pitch Everton should look to exploit to give themselves the best chance of a result?

Jack: I’d probably say the midfield at the moment. Klopp hasn’t been happy with the organisation of the midfield at times this season, which is part of the reason we’ve changed from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-1-1 in a lot of matches.

The three-man midfield worked so well for us last season but it’s not been as effective this term. Idrissa Gueye, André Gomes and Sigurðsson are playing well for you and if we play just the two midfielders then I think that’s an area you should look to try and dominate.

RBM: How do you expect Liverpool to line up on Sunday?

Jack: I think there’ll be a few changes from the PSG game but it should still be a strong side. Xherdan Shaqiri should come back into the team, which probably means a switch back to the 4-4-1-1.

I’d guess at: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Fabinho; Shaqiri, Firmino, Mané; Salah.

But I wouldn’t be overly surprised if Klopp considers playing Moreno, Keïta or Sturridge. We’ll need to rest Andy Robertson, Georginio Wijnaldum and Firmino at some point in the coming weeks. Probably more likely to happen against Burnley on Wednesday, though.

Watford FC v Liverpool FC - Premier League
Andy Robertson has established himself as one of the league’s best left-backs
Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images

RBM: Which of Liverpool’s lethal front three do you think could cause Everton the most problems?

Jack: Salah. He’s in good form in the league and is getting into some good goalscoring areas while he’s playing as a striker.

He scored that excellent goal against you at Anfield last season and I’d expect him to cause you a lot of problems again.

RBM: Finally, what’s your derby prediction?

Jack: I’m not sure we’ll be at our best going forward but we haven’t been all season and we’ve still been grinding out results. I’ll go with 2-0 to the Reds.

Our thanks to Jack for his time.