For the first time since 1989 Everton take on Liverpool as league leaders, bidding to end a decade-long wait for a victory over their great rivals and make it eight wins in a row to start the season for the first time since 1894.
The Toffees’ fine start and lofty league position is just one added dimension to what could be one of the most fascinating Merseyside derby clashes of recent times.
Little has changed in the outside world since the two teams last met in June. We remain in the midst of a Covid-19 crisis, with fans still locked out of stadiums and increasingly strict lockdown measures being imposed on an already weary public.
The UK government, desperate to avoid a full national lockdown, is instead trying to introduce a regionalised approach, with cases rising highest in the north-west of England.
But as they press ahead with plans to impose the harshest measures on the Liverpool city region and neighbouring Lancashire, so too old wounds have opened up, with echoes of the 1980s and battles with the Conservative government of the day.
The one shining light for scousers in that difficult decade was football, with Everton and Liverpool riding high at the top of the table and sharing out the honours year-on-year.
The prospect of silverware remains in the distance for Everton (for now), but the escapism football can bring is probably needed more than it has done for 35 years.
From a purely footballing perspective, the transformational impact an Everton victory could have cannot be downplayed either. Ten years without a derby win (let’s not even talk about their Anfield record) is frankly a disgrace and points to mental block rather than dazzling play by Liverpool, who have one really come to the fore in recent years.
It is a millstone around the neck of the supporters, who have developed an almost impenetrable gallows humour largely down to that dreadful record against their nearest and dearest.
Throughout this magical start to the season there is the nagging doubt that things will soon go wrong, that reality will bite and normality restored. That’s what years of under-achievement does to you.
A win on Saturday, though, and a huge weight will be lifted, allowing us to dream once more.
Let’s face it, Liverpool have been virtually flawless over the past 18 months, adding the Premier League title to the Champions League trophy they won last year.
But their shock 7-2 thrashing at Aston Villa last time shattered that aura of invincibility around Jurgen Klopp’s side.
That can only give Everton confidence, though they must also be wary of a Reds response. Liverpool remain a fine side and thinking one result changes that would only lead to trouble.
They also, of course, have an imposing record in this fixture, unbeaten in their last 22 meetings in all competitions, against no side have they ever had a longer run without defeat in their history.
Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed that his international contingent have all come back unscathed, meaning Lucas Digne, who was forced off during France’s game against Croatia, and Yerry Mina, who missed Colombia’s draw against Chile, have been passed fit.
Seamus Coleman, Allan and Andre Gomes have also recovered from injuries suffered before the international break.
Jarrad Branthwaite, Mason Holgate, Jonjoe Kenny, Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Cenk Tosun remain sidelined.
Everton 0-0 Liverpool June 21st, 2020
It was the first weekend of ‘Project Restart’ when the two sides last met in June at an eerily quiet Goodison Park. The enforced break and empty stadium probably played its part in what was a turgid encounter, though Everton had the better chances and could have won it late on when Tom Davies’ deflected effort came off the inside of the post.
Brighton (H) Won 4-2
West Ham (H - Carabao Cup) Won 4-1
Crystal Palace (A) Won 2-1
Fleetwood (A - Carabao Cup) Won 5-2
West Brom (H) Won 5-2
Aston Villa (L) Lost 7-2
Arsenal (H - Carabao Cup) Drew 0-0 - Lost 5-4 on penalties
Arsenal (H) Won 3-1
Lincoln (A - Carabao Cup) Won 7-2
Chelsea (A) Won 2-0
What they said
Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti: “Everyone knows the importance of the derby and how important the game is for this period.
“We started the season really well and the feeling in the dressing room is good.
“It is a really important period for us and we want to keep our form good for the future.
“On Saturday we will face one of the best teams in England and the world.
“It is an exciting game and a fantastic challenge.”
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp: “It’s pretty clear that they did some good business and Carlo is a sensational manager. So it was always clear that when he has the time to build something then he will do that, if they have the resources to build something then he will do that, and that’s what he did.
“This team looks really, really good - I would like to say something different but it’s not possible! So of course that’s a proper challenger. Look, so many teams did really good business in this transfer window, [business] which made real sense, and they all will improve.
“All teams improve in that league and that’s what everybody has to know about. We know about that and that’s why we have to be ready for each of these games and tomorrow, in not even 24 hours, we can show that.”
There’s not much else to be said. We are due a win, so go out there and do the job.