Tomorrow at Goodison Park represents Everton’s last - and we do mean last - opportunity to exit the 2018-19 season with some sort of a positive lasting memory. Sure, they’ve been unceremoniously bounced from both domestic cups, and sure, there’s almost no way they qualify for Europe. Ruining Liverpool’s title chase, though? That, my friends, is still on the table.
Of course, I’m not saying the Blues have a good chance to do that, just that there is a chance. In order to make it happen, though, some genius from Marco Silva will be required.
Tactics and Formation
There’s a lot that goes into thinking about what Silva will do in this match.
First and foremost, all season long, Marco has stuck with lineups that won the previous match. Should beating Cardiff really have any impact on the players he chooses against Liverpool? Probably not very much, but it’s something to consider.
The other major component here is that Silva has been relatively aggressive against the Premier League’s top sides this season, and frankly he’s probably unlucky to have only come away with one point for those efforts.
That said, does he continue to roll out relatively attack-minded lineups in a match like this, risking the sort of beating that tends to get managers fired? Or does he stick to his guns and trust that his team will get the top-six result that they probably already deserve based on past performances against Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, and Liverpool?
Based on what we’ve seen from Silva this season, we tend to lean toward the latter.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Jordan Pickford - 10/10
Lucas Digne - 10/10
Kurt Zouma - 9/10
Even if Yerry Mina is healthy at this point, you don’t bring a guy back into the fold for the first time in a month against Liverpool. Silva has shown an at-times idiotic propensity for keeping a winning lineup intact, but surely he wouldn’t trot Phil Jagielka back out for this match...right?
Michael Keane - 10/10
Seamus Coleman - 9/10
Jonjoe Kenny was decent in his recent stint back in the lineup, but Coleman remains the better — and more experienced — player.
Morgan Schneiderlin - 7/10
If you told me on Monday that by Friday, I was going to expect Morgan Schneiderlin to be playing in the Merseyside derby, I’d have laughed in your face. And yet, here we are.
Schneiderlin did against Cardiff City what he basically always does — sat deep in front of the back four, sprayed the ball around, and found a couple of very important passes, most importantly one that led to the opening goal.
If Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp come with the high press Sunday, the player in this position — either Schneiderlin or feasibly Andre Gomes — will likely determine Everton’s fate. If Schneiderlin can pass his way around the Liverpool pressure, he’ll well and truly be back in long-term contention.
Idrissa Gueye - 10/10
No matter how good Schneiderlin, Gomes, or anybody else is though, Everton will commit a few turnovers in bad areas against Liverpool. Marco Silva will need Gana to snuff out those quick-fire chances before they can develop.
Gylfi Sigurdsson - 10/10
Our biggest gripe with Marco Silva — save for maybe the set piece defending — has been his inability to get Gylfi Sigurdsson regularly involved in the attack. The Icelander finally got regular touches against Cardiff City on Tuesday, and he turned the match on its head. For Everton to have any real chance against Liverpool, he’ll need to do it again.
Richarlison - 10/10
The Brazilian was absolutely dreadful against Cardiff City. He’s also Everton’s biggest goal threat and should be starting every game, so there’s still no real question here.
Bernard - 5/10
Bernard beats out Theo Walcott and Ademola Lookman for the start here, though we’re not at all certain. As we’ve already noted, Silva rarely deviates from a previously successful lineup, but Bernard was a force after he was introduced against Cardiff.
For the record, we still prefer Lookman to get the start opposite Richarlison, but Marco gonna Marco.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin - 7/10
Silva really should consider starting a striker who has a good enough first touch to maintain possession of the ball with Virgil Van Dyke breathing down his neck. There’s only one player who fits that description, and it’s Cenk Tosun.
But, Dom started last week and scored (with the last touch of the match), so it’s hard to see Silva going away from him.
Gird your loins. Drink before, during, and after the match. Watch the game through your fingers. It’s almost derby day.