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Everton vs Liverpool: The Opposition View

We spoke to Reds fan and writer Scott Groom prior to Saturday’s Merseyside Derby

Everton FC v Liverpool FC - Premier League
The last three Goodison derbies have ended in goalless draws
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Everton face the biggest threat to the perfect start to the season so far when they host Merseyside rivals Liverpool on Saturday lunchtime.

The Blues have won all seven of their games in both the Premier League and the EFL Cup in 2020-21, but have the last three Goodison Park derbies have all ended goalless and they have not been their neighbours since October 17, 2010.

This weekend’s derby will mark ten years to the day since that last victory, but the Blues have hardly been better-placed since then to beat Liverpool.

Jurgen Klopp’s champions also took maximum points from the first three league games this term, before their shock 7-2 trouncing at Aston Villa last time out.

Ahead of Saturday’s derby, we spoke to Scott Groom, Liverpool fan and writer at LFC Transfer Room and Anfield Index:

RBM: Firstly, that Aston Villa defeat - much as it was a freak result, did Liverpool’s performance that night leave you with any long-term worries?

Scott: It was just a horror show all round; one of the most difficult Liverpool matches I can remember watching in my lifetime. There’s no exaggerating how bad a performance and result it was. Yes, three goals took huge deflections, but that doesn’t take away the fact that Villa perfectly executed a game plan against us, but also that our players looked a million miles away from the standards we’ve come to expect from them in the past few years.

I think, though, it remains a blip. This team has been so consistent for so long that you can’t really see it as anything other than that. Should that type of performance level continue and results continue to be below-par, then you start to ask questions.

However, I think the errors made by some will have longer lasting implications on their Anfield careers - and I’d be lying if I wasn’t talking about Adrian. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares in the coming weeks while Alisson Becker recovers. That does give me the jitters a bit.

Aston Villa v Liverpool - Premier League
Liverpool were destroyed by Villa on October 4
Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

RBM: Do you think that Villa drubbing makes this a better or worse time for Everton to host Liverpool?

Scott: Let’s take a moment to say how well Everton have started this season. Carlo Ancelotti is clearly having the impact many on the blue half of Merseyside thought and hoped he would have when he was appointed. They’ve made good signings who seem to have gelled straight away, look dangerous in attack and have put in some eye-catching displays. However, I think the international break came at totally the wrong time for them and at the best time for Liverpool after the Villa game.

You can’t get away from the fact that international breaks disrupt rhythm and that’s the last thing Ancelotti would’ve wanted. Jurgen Klopp, on the other hand, will have been grateful to see the international break and will use it as a chance for the players to come back with a clean slate, but also with that defeat still fresh in the memory.

Everyone associated with Liverpool wants to see a positive reaction and what better way to make a statement than in the derby. So personally, not a great time for Everton - especially as Thiago Alcantara, Sadio Mane, Jordan Henderson and Joel Matip are all back in contention, leaving us at pretty much full strength.

Let’s just hope, for my sake, that that translates into a positive result.

RBM: All in all, then, how would you assess Liverpool’s start to the campaign?

Scott: Villa aside, we can’t have too many grumbles really. The performances against Arsenal and Chelsea were exactly what you’d expect from this side; composed, controlling, clinical.

The Leeds game at the very start of the season was bizarre, but Leeds have shown since then that they’re no pushovers. While we let them in three times, you could tell we were the better team and outclassed them in the end. Nobody really wants a newly promoted side first game of the season, so it was good to get past that hurdle.

Now he’s back from his bout of COVID, it’ll be wonderful to see Thiago back in the fray after his move in the summer window. He will be a breath of fresh air to this side and will no doubt provide the front three with plenty of ammunition, and Mohamed Salah and Mane look equally goal-hungry this season, so there’s plenty of reason to be satisfied. All I’d like is just a few less goals conceded.

Liverpool v Arsenal - Premier League
Liverpool previously had won all three of their Premier League games
Photo by Jason Cairnduff - Pool/Getty Images

RBM: Klopp’s Liverpool have enjoyed great success playing with a high defensive line. Given they shipped seven last time out, and given Everton have scored 24 goals in seven games this season, do you think he might switch to a different approach here?

Scott: It’s a good point, and it’ll be interesting to see how both sides play this one. I don’t think Klopp will change things too much as he won’t want his defence sitting on top of Adrian, but then again, he may want them to be a bit deeper given the chasm of space that was available to the attackers at Villa Park.

The thing with Everton now is that they have the creativity in the middle to play through teams as well as mixing it up and going a bit more direct, as well as having pace to get around defenders too. So I think it’ll be a really interesting tactical battle at Goodison.

RBM: Conversely, the last two Goodison derbies have seen Everton grind out 0-0 draws with deep defensive lines. Should they get more into Liverpool’s faces this time?

Scott: ‘Grind out’ is the key phrase there. The last few fixtures at Goodison have been eyesores, particularly from an Everton perspective. They sat deep, didn’t try to play football and made it a case of waiting to see if Liverpool could break them down, which to Everton’s credit, they couldn’t. I think we might be seeing the end of that approach, at least for the short-term.

When you consider the signings that Ancelotti has made in players like James Rodriguez, you’d be surprised if he told them to rest on their laurels and dig deep, sit back and not have a go at Liverpool. I fully expect a more aggressive display from the Toffees, but they need to be careful about being too gung-ho as we all know that often plays into Liverpool’s hands. We’re masters at picking teams off on the counter so they need to bear that in mind.

Everton FC v Liverpool FC - Premier League
Jurgen Klopp has never lost to Everton as Liverpool boss
Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

RBM: How much more do you fear Everton, if it all, going into this game than in recent derbies?

Scott: I wouldn’t say I fear them. I don’t think a Liverpool fan should fear any team given the team’s recent success. But I am certainly more wary of Everton than I’ve previously been. They’re undoubtedly much improved on last season, but I stand by the fact that I don’t think they’ve been thoroughly tested yet.

Yes they beat Spurs, but they’re far from the finished article. They haven’t come up against one of the bigger sides like Liverpool or Manchester City. They’ve overturned teams they struggled against in previous years which is a massive step in the right direction.

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

Scott: I think it’ll be much of the same. The front three picks itself, with Roberto Firmino in good form for Brazil during the international break and Mane fully rested after contracting COVID.

There’s a question as to whether Matip comes back into the fray from the start on his return to fitness due to Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s aerial prowess, but Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson will be certainties on the left and right hand side.

I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Thiago in from the start as Liverpool try to dictate the play, and he’s the perfect player for that. Although, there’s the possibility that Klopp opts for Naby Keita or Gini Wijnaldum alongside what will probably be Henderson and Fabinho making up the bulk of the midfield.

Adrian will likely be given the nod in goal, although after his continued errors in recent times, there is a slight question mark over his inclusion. But with only Caoimhin Kelleher in reserve, Adrian will most likely be given a starting birth.

Aston Villa v Liverpool - Premier League
Adrian had a game to forget at Villa Park
Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

RBM: Aside from the obvious front three, which of Liverpool’s players do you think could cause Everton the most problems?

Scott: The additions to the front three in Diogo Jota and Takumi Minamino from the bench have the ability to cause real problems for the Everton defence. Then there’s the obvious threat of Thiago in the middle of the park. If Everton let him play his game, or prevent him from being as influential as he can be, then he’ll pull the strings and pick Everton apart.

Then there’s Robertson and Alexander-Arnold at full back. They’re so important to this team and often, if you stop them getting forward and being so impactful on the ball, you put the brakes on the Liverpool side. However, Thiago adds an extra layer of creativity on top of that.

Plus, Divock Origi loves a derby goal, so he’s always in Everton’s thoughts when this fixture arises!

RBM: Finally, what’s your derby prediction?

Scott: I think it’ll be a really good game, to be honest. So often, these ties end up being rather dull for the neutral and for those with a vested interest, but with the football that both sides are playing, I think that we could be in for a really exciting game. The 3-3 draw at Goodison in the 2013/14 season was one of the best in recent memory when both sides were playing so well with fluid football, and this harks back to that point in time.

I do think that Liverpool will be baying for blood after the Villa defeat and Everton need to be very wary. I think it’ll be a tight game, but I think Liverpool will edge it 2-1.

Our thanks to Scott for his time.