Drawing with Manchester United two weekends ago was positive. The grit that the team displayed was admirable despite only taking a point from the contest and only a draw of three matchups with the Red Devils this season across all competitions; while we needed to win, the draw was better than nothing at all. The succeeding victory in an absolute manic match with Tottenham in the fifth round of the FA Cup was even more positive, and with a victory in the first of three matches in seven days, things appeared to be going on the right track.
But the injury to Dominic Calvert-Lewin, acquired in the second half of the Tottenham match, has in matches since proven an issue, and one that has come at an unfortunate time in the season. The Fulham match was deflating, while the succeeding match against Manchester City was simply unfortunate. Everton clearly didn’t take the former team as seriously as it should’ve in their 2-0 defeat. Meanwhile, City are simply the most talented outfit in the league, as a fellow RBM writer proclaimed during the game; the amount of talent and ability on their roster is simply exhilarating. And so, with this portrait of recent events painted, a Merseyside Derby is not an ideal match when three points is necessary. Yet the Toffees can win, and indeed must, for three straight losses would be a blow to the club's top four ambitions, although certainly not the end of them.
Klopp’s Words Must Ring in the Ears of Every Toffee
For anyone not paying explicit attention to the Premier League, Liverpool are likely not winning the title this year, as they did last season. Jurgen Klopp said as much just last week after their disappointing loss to Leicester City; that is not the only proclamation he has made recently however. In discussing the club's less than stellar form this year, especially when compared to recent campaigns, he declared in his larger statement that, “...Nobody is happy with being fourth and only have 40 points and (potentially) being level with Everton and all these kind of things....”
Having lost to Manchester City, Everton are not yet level with Jurgen Klopp’s Reds, yet with a solid outing against a struggling Liverpool side, we can be by weekend’s end. Richarlison has been better since the Tottenham match, although he might have demonstrated as much in the lackluster Fulham outing; he will be necessary against the Reds to say the least, with showings similar to either Tottenham or City. As will Joshua King presumably at some point; even with DCL back, he must be trusted sooner than later to step in a provide a player who can do things similarly, if not exactly, like the injured young superstar.
Yerry Mina will also be necessary, although he will not be playing against Liverpool unfortunately; his necessity goes beyond this one game however. The defense has played much better with him in the lineup this season, indeed the entire club has. The defense as a whole have not played brilliantly recently to say the least, having surrendered twelve goals across the last four matches across all competitions; a better, more organized showing will be key to defeating Liverpool in this Merseyside Derby at Anfield.
While Liverpool has shown that they can score in flashes this season, they have not been consistent in doing so. Their defense has suffered injuries to be sure, yet they are well coached and continue to develop week in and out, across all the competitions they remain in. With this in mind, Everton must focus as much as against Tottenham, with better results than their focus earned them against City just days ago. A victory against a tough outfit in an emotionally charged game, with some bulletin board material uttered, could re-energize a team that needs to show that it can take three points without their best player.
Three Points for a Better Future: With a Difficult Road Ahead, a Win cannot be Spared
After this game, Everton get, what Big Duncan Ferguson might call, “a wee break”. The club will next play on the first of March, hosting Southampton in a game they should hope to win. Their last match against them, a loss, was a trap game that sent the club tumbling on their first real rough stretch of the campaign. Traveling to Stamford Bridge, five days later will be an absolute test.
With Chelsea reinvigorated and reinvented by Thomas Tuchel, the game will likely not look like the first iteration did earlier this season. And while Burnley the week after should be three points, matches against Newcastle and Fulham have to have fans holding their breaths during every match. The 20th of March holds the quarterfinals match between Manchester City and Everton, once again at Goodison Park. After the thrashing we just experienced, we will need to demonstrate that we learned a great deal in order to move to the semifinals; they however, are clearly the best team in England currently.
With the schedule outlined past Liverpool, all the way to past midway March, what does Everton need and what can we expect regarding points during this stretch? Three points against Liverpool will be crucial but I’ve been saying that for two of the last three Premier League matches for the Toffees. Across the three games preceding the City rematch, Everton must have seven points at least; that would make for ten with a victory at Anfield, which I am predicting, 3-2. While the club could use a total of nine points, twelve including the Liverpool win, one cannot be greedy or even over optimistic. Everton are in the midst of a tough time, yet as we saw earlier this year, tough times come and go, while talent and perseverance remain. Everton have to show their grit and tenacity now, more than ever before; will they? We shall see.