UPDATE: Due to the atrocious weather conditions in the northwest as a result of Storm Ciara, the women's Merseyside Derby has been postponed.
It’s time! Our prayers have been answered! Everton Women face Liverpool Women at Goodison Park on Sunday and everyone’s buzzing for the Blues to celebrate their second derby win of the season. The Toffees beat Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield back in November and that was without their top goal scoring threat, Chloe Kelly, due to a red card suspension. Now that Kelly is back with the squad and scoring hat-tricks, is it possible that this could be a blow out?
Liverpool Women are currently in second to last place, with only one win against last place Bristol. The Reds can’t seem to score even if their life depended on it, and only have four league goals all season. Shockingly, former Blue Courtney Sweetman-Kirk only has one Cup goal in 2019-2020. This is bonkers considering she scored 10 goals last season.
But anything can happen with a derby! Fifth-placed Everton Women are the much better side on the season, but they have experienced a slight decline in results as of late, with a shocking 1-0 loss to 9th place Brighton (a team they previously beat 2-0 earlier in the season) and an underwhelming 1-0 Cup win against London Bees (a team that currently sits 5th place in the Championship).
Manager Willie Kirk told WSL.com that the loss against Brighton was a wake up call:
“Today’s a lesson, it doesn’t matter where you are in the league or who you are, if you’re not at it for 90 minutes then you will suffer the consequences.”
The Reds’ biggest threat could be their breakout star of the last derby, forward Rinsola Babajide. She was recently voted Liverpool Women’s Standard Chartered Player of the Month for January and she has seven Cup goals so far, including four scored against Blackburn Rovers. Reds skipper Sophie Bradley-Auckland is a steady presence on the backline and forward Niamh Charles has scored two league goals, which makes her their top league goalscorer.
Everton (4-3-3): Tinja-Riikka Korpela, Esme Morgan, Dan Turner, Gabrielle George, Chaney Boye-Hlorkah, Inessa Kaagman, Chloe Kelly, Abbey-Leigh Stringer, Molly Pike, Lucy Graham, Simone Magill
You can bet the ranch on defenders Gabby George and Dan Turner starting because they have started every single league game thus far. Same for midfielder Lucy Graham, who happened to score the lone goal in the last derby, so rest assured her name will be in the starting eleven. Top goalscorer Kelly will most likely start as well and she hopefully show us what we were missing in the first derby: lots of goals!
Unfortunately, new signing Hayley Raso will not even be at the game because she is currently in China playing for Australia in their Olympic qualifying games. Look for her to join the Blues after February 13th.
The question on everybody’s mind is: Will Izzy Christiansen get her first start for Everton during the derby? She has yet to feature for the Blues due to an injury and specific updates are not very common in the WSL. She did state in a post-game interview on January 19th that she thinks she will be “back soon, in a few weeks, hopefully.” Everton tweeted some photos of her at Goodison Park but did not provide any details as to her status:
Another big question is who will start in goal. Finnish international Tinja-Riikka Korpela had been their mainstay since the beginning of the season and she was at one point tied with Mary Earps for the second-best goalkeeping record in the WSL.
Korpela is a 33 year old veteran player with some very impressive experience including winning six championship titles in three different countries. It was a little surprising when manager Kirk chose brand new signing Sandy MacIver for the January 19th match against Reading and for the next game against Brighton. MacIver is 21 years old recent graduate of Clemson University in the States and has had two senior England call ups for friendlies in August.
Will Kirk go for experience and choose Korpela or give new kid MacIver a chance on the big stage? We are hoping for a tried and true as their #1 but if England manager Phil Neville is in the stands, there could be pressure to start MacIver to see how she can handle playing in front of big crowds.
Speaking of big crowds, Everton wants to top the amount of fans that came out for the derby at Anfield (23,500) and if you want to be apart of history, get your tickets now!
How are clubs supporting the players, who go from playing in front of 250 fans one game to 25,000 the next? Well, according to BBC Sport, Everton is providing the following mental health support: a club chaplain, a performance psychologist, a lifestyle adviser, a club doctor and external clinical psychologists. For their part, Liverpool “invited a consultant in leadership, team culture and elite performance to speak to the players before the Merseyside derby at Anfield in November.”
Watch out for more of our coverage of the derby and make sure to watch on the FA Player app if you can’t attend in person!
Up the Toffees!
Everton v Liverpool
Barclays FA WSL
Sunday 9 February 2:00pm Local, 9:00am ET
Watch: Live on The FA Player app
IT'S DERBY WEEK!— Everton Women (@EvertonWomen) February 3, 2020
Be there at Goodison this Sunday!