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Everton vs Liverpool: The Opposition View

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

Liverpool FC v Everton FC - Premier League
Divock Origi broke Everton hearts with a 96th-minute winner at Anfield in December
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The 233rd chapter of the Merseyside Derby will be written on Sunday, as Everton welcome Liverpool to Goodison Park.

The Reds, who top the Premier League by one point, are unbeaten against the Blues since 2010, and won the reverse fixture at Anfield in December after Jordan Pickford’s error gifted Divock Origi a last-gasp winner.

Everton come into this game on the back of a 3-0 away win at Cardiff City on Tuesday night, while Jürgen Klopp’s side trounced Watford 5-0 on Wednesday evening.

Ahead of Sunday’s derby, we spoke to Jack Sear, a freelance sports journalist and Liverpool fan:

RBM: Firstly, is this a game Liverpool have to win in their title pursuit, or would you be satisfied with a draw?

Jack: I definitely think it’s a game they have to win. It’s ten finals for Liverpool between now and mid-May.

This week will go down as one of the most defining weeks of our season and if we can come out of it still top of the league, then it’s been a good one.

I think a lot of people, including myself, were a bit concerned by the nature of the performance at Old Trafford last Sunday [0-0 draw], but it was still a point that many would have taken before kick off. We needed to follow that up with a good performance against Watford and we most certainly did. Now to complete the set.

Liverpool v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg
Liverpool are also fighting in the Champions League, drawing the first leg of their last 16 tie against Bayern Munich last week
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

RBM: Out of the Champions League and the Premier League, do you see either trophy as more important to Liverpool this season than the other?

Jack: I think pretty much every Liverpool fan would say it’s the Premier League that they want. The Champions League is probably the biggest club football tournament in world football but Liverpool need to win a league title as soon as they can. It’s been too long.

Having said that, nobody would be against another good run in the Champions League this season.

RBM: Though they demolished Watford on Wednesday, Liverpool have looked a little more toothless than usual in recent games. With Klopp having rarely rotated some of his key players this term, is fatigue as much of an issue as nerves at the moment?

Jack: I don’t think fatigue is too big an issue at the moment. We’ve had a couple of long breaks in between games and we’re not playing as much football as the likes of Manchester City and other sides that are still in Europe and the FA Cup.

However, many of the players that played in the World Cup last summer have hardly had a break for the last 18 months or so. Some of those that reached the latter stages of the competition only had a couple of weeks off last summer and Klopp has said a few times that he’d ideally like them to have longer.

They’re professionals, though, and none of them are really showing signs of tiring.

Liverpool FC v Watford FC - Premier League
Virgil van Dijk (right) scored a brace in Wednesday’s Watford win
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

RBM: Reds forward Roberto Firmino missed the Watford game after suffering an ankle injury in the draw at Manchester United, but may be back this weekend. How vital do you feel it is that he returns at Goodison?

Jack: I think it’s very important. I’ve seen some people saying that even if Firmino is fit, Divock Origi should continue in attack. I can’t see that happening, despite big Divock’s knack for scoring goals against you guys.

Klopp is a huge admirer of Firmino and he is one of Liverpool’s most important players without any shadow of a doubt. He’s the man that gives the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané the licence to do what they do. He’s a vital part of our team offensively and defensively.

We saw how different a side we looked after he came off at United last Sunday. If he is fit then I expect him to come straight back into the XI.

RBM: The Merseyside Derby at Anfield was a closely-fought contest, with both sides missing key opportunities before Origi’s winner. Do you anticipate a similar sort of game this time?

Jack: I think most Liverpool fans will be feeling confident coming into this fixture, especially after that performance against Watford on Wednesday.

The last time we played you guys we weren’t actually in great shape and our performance wasn’t the best on the day. That Origi winner was a massive boost and really pushed us to another level. We were outstanding for the rest of the year.

Despite your win at Cardiff earlier this week, you guys haven’t been in the best form. The games where we have struggled in recent weeks have been against sides that have sat deep and tried to frustrate us. I can’t see Marco Silva setting you guys up like that on Sunday, especially at Goodison. I think it could be quite an open game, which should probably play into Liverpool’s hands.

Liverpool FC v Everton FC - Premier League
Pickford’s mistake gifted Origi a winner in a game Everton matched Liverpool in the main
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

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

Jack: It’s been quite tough to second-guess Klopp’s team selection in recent weeks, especially in midfield.

I think the back four and the frontline probably pick themselves. I expect Trent Alexander-Arnold to continue at right-back and Firmino to come in for Origi. If he’s not fit, I should think Origi will continue in attack after his performance in midweek.

It’s the midfield that’s hard to predict. The big call for Klopp is whether he keeps Jordan Henderson on the bench again.

I think he’d usually be one of the first names on the team sheet in a game like this but Fabinho is starting to make that holding midfield role his own. Do we need both in the team? Not sure we do for this one. Naby Keïta is also due a start. I’ll go with the following:

Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Keïta; Salah, Firmino, Mané.

RBM: Which of Liverpool’s players currently look the best bet to cause Everton problems?

Jack: Mané is in great nick. He’s scoring a lot of goals at the moment. Klopp used him in a central role on Wednesday and he was outstanding. He’s also now the fifth-top goalscorer in the Premier League.

Aside from that, Salah will be desperate to get back on the scoresheet again. He didn’t score against Watford but had one of his best games for a long time. He’ll want to make sure that Golden Boot is his for the second season running.

RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for the derby?

Jack: Feeling confident I’m afraid, lads. I’ll say Everton 0-3 Liverpool.

Our thanks to Jack for his time.