So, it has come to this.
Everton welcome a rampant Liverpool to Goodison Park on Wednesday attempting to halt a woeful run of form that has seen them to slide down the table and spark near mutiny among a demoralised fanbase while their crosstown rivals have almost doubled the Blues’ points total.
These local tussles have thrown up new and unique ways to torture Evertonian souls in recent years (Sadio Mane 2016 and Divock Origi 2018 spring to mind). But now we have a new nightmare scenario: Liverpool romping to victory while their fans sing the name of Everton’s manager. I genuinely fear what might happen if Everton go one or two (or three!) goals behind early on.
It was a frightening prospect and one we all feared when Rafael Benitez was appointed in June. A bright start raised hopes and expectations, but the team has completely collapsed just in time for the derby while Liverpool are absolutely flying. Sunday’s miserable 1-0 defeat at Brentford looked to be the final straw for many fans, with the visiting supporters angrily berating the players at the final whistle.
I felt some sympathy for Ben Godfrey and Anthony Gordon - Gordon in particular looked crestfallen – but I can also understand the supporters’ frustration and I’m not going to criticise them for it.
Years of mismanagement have finally come home to roost and in catastrophic fashion.
The fans have witnessed some truly awful performances these last few weeks, with the Toffees now on their longest winless run since Roberto Martinez was in charge in April 2016.
Back then Farhad Moshiri had just taken over the club two months previously and there was a feeling of genuine optimism. But it seems fitting that we have seemingly come full circle in five years despite £500m of investment.
There is nothing we can do to change things in the short term so we just have to hope the players roll their sleeves up and show some passion for the shirt.
They can’t out-football this Liverpool side so it’s going to have to be scrap. If Liverpool play very badly and Everton play very well, they might have a chance.
And for as long as there’s a chance, Evertonians will keep on coming back for more.
Liverpool 0-2 Everton, February 20, 2021
Everton ended 22 years of Anfield hurt with a 2-0 victory back in February thanks to goals from Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson, their first win across Stanley Park since 1999.
Rafa Benitez will once again be without the injured Tom Davies, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Yerry Mina. Andre Gomes has resumed training but is not yet ready to return.
Richarlison is back from suspension but Mason Holgate serves the final game of his own three-match ban.
What They Said
Everton boss Rafa Benitez: “It is a massive game for us, we are on a bad run and need to start winning and a derby is always an opportunity to put things right.
“I am really conscious of what the derby means to everyone and excited because I want to do well.
“As a club and a team, it is really important to bring back the confidence and play at the level we were at the beginning of the season.
“If we do it on Wednesday, I don’t need to say anything [to the players]. It will be massive for everyone and a crucial point for us in terms of bringing back the confidence.”
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp: “We all know there are some special things around derbies, these kind of things. But first and foremost, it’s a football game as well and that’s exactly how we want to approach it and that’s it pretty much.
“We know what our supporters want. I think we are not suspicious of not understanding the supporters’ soul and we try to fulfil their dreams and we try to fulfil their wishes, and derby games are more in the focus, if you want.
“But from our point of view, it’s a football game which we have to approach like a normal football game.”
Everything points to a comfortable Liverpool win, but amidst the hysteria some calm and logical heads must emerge.
Everton’s team isn’t as bad as it has shown over recent weeks, and the return of Richarlison is a huge boost.
The Goodison crowd will also be loud, boisterous, and angry. Get off to a good start and you never know.
It’s the hope that kills you, COYB.