A weary and downbeat Everton have to pick themselves up from the canvas yet again as they make the short but daunting trip to Anfield to take on Liverpool FC.
The Toffees’ fine away record would normally mean we approach this game with confidence. But two defeats in the space of a week, combined with a breathless schedule and the weight of an awful record against the Reds means that familiar sense of dread is now hanging over us.
The 3-1 defeat to Manchester City did not really teach us anything we already knew about the side’s deficiencies. City are streets ahead of anyone else in the division and are bang in form. Few sides could cope with them at the moment.
It is the defeat to Fulham that did the real damage, meaning the Toffees blew a real chance to move back into contention for the top four.
Those hopes are surely extinguished now, with the next target of a top six/seven place and a spot in the Europa League now a priority.
That is more than realistic given what we have seen so far this season, particularly as the relentless schedule which features nine games in 28 days begins to ease after Sunday.
The lack of European football this season could be to the club’s advantage. Failure to secure it next season will come as a real blow.
After the highs of last season, cracks have started to appear in the Liverpool machine this time around.
The air of invincibility has gone and the title has already been conceded by Jurgen Klopp after a run of three successive Premier League defeats.
With impeccable timing of course, the Reds were able to regain confidence thanks to a 2-0 win at RB Leipzig in midweek and poor recent league results does not make them any less imposing an opponent.
Much of the build-up of course has surrounded what happened when the two sides last met in October, when Virgil van Dijk suffered a season-ending knee injury.
I’m not going to add to the noise here, as it seemingly hasn’t stopped in some circles since. Suffice to say it is probably good to get the first derby since that game out of the way. Hopefully, after Saturday, we can all move on from an incident that, although serious and reckless, has been blown out of all proportion.
Regardless of what happened last time, Liverpool also go into Saturday’s game knowing the Toffees have an absolutely dreadful record in this fixture.
Just look at these numbers.
Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 23 meetings with Everton in all competitions - their longest unbeaten run against an opponent in their history. In contrast, Everton are winless in their last 20 Premier League games against Liverpool - their longest winless run against an opponent in the competition.
You famously have to go even further for an Everton win at Anfield, 22 years in fact, and to September 1999.
This brilliant but harrowing article has worked out that Everton haven’t even led in a derby since 2013, and that was only for seven minutes at Goodison. In their last 20 league visits to Anfield they have been in front for a total of just 36 minutes.
It’s enough to make you wonder why we bother supporting them. Indeed, it is only blind hope and the law of averages that is motivating me to watch it.
Everton 2-2 Liverpool October 17, 2020.
An entertaining game at Goodison Park will probably only be remembered for the early injury to Virgil van Dijk which ended his season. Sadio Mane and Mo Salah twice put the Reds ahead, but headers from Michael Keane and Dominic Calvert-Lewin earned Everton a point.
Man City (H) Lost 3-1
Fulham (H) Lost 2-0
Tottenham (H – FA Cup) Won 5-4
Man Utd (A) Drew 3-3
Leeds (A) Won 2-1
RB Leipzig (A – Champs Lge) Won 2-0
Leicester (A) Lost 3-1
Man City (H) Lost 4-1
Brighton (H) Lost 1-0
West Ham (A) Won 3-1
Everton have Dominic Calvert-Lewin available after missing the last two games with a minor hamstring injury. Midfielder Allan could also feature for the first time in two months after recovering from a similar problem.
Yerry Mina is sidelined however after he was forced off early on against Manchester City with a calf strain, with the injury likely to keep him out for three or four weeks.
What they said
Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti: “It is important to be focused on what we are going to do in the game, the strategy of the game, to be brave and confident. And to try to play football.
“To play against Liverpool, you have to compete at the level they used to putting in the games.
“You have to try to find a solution up front, you cannot only defend against them.
“You have to try to propose something [cause problems offensively] and we are going to try to do that.”
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp: “Nothing will be carried over[from the last derby].
“A week later, two or three when we got the diagnosis for Virgil, it is good we didn’t play Everton again, let me say it like this. Now we just don’t think about it, but it’s still a derby and that’s enough to be motivated.”
The absence of fans should act as something of a leveller, while Everton may also be relieved to get away from Goodison for a bit.
But after 22 years of losing at Anfield in a wild variety of different ways, any optimism I had for this fixture has long been extinguished and replaced with blind hope.
Oh and beer. Lots of beer.