Ever feel like this is all a Truman Show simulation designed to push Evertonians to the limit?
Because I’m not sure even Ed Harris could come up with a scenario where Everton, battling relegation with the worst away record in the league, travel to Liverpool, battling to win the lot with the best home record in the league, knowing they could be in the relegation zone by kick-off if Burnley win again.
The wind was knocked out of Evertonians sails with that Burnley win over Southampton on Thursday. Yes it was against a Southampton side who looked on the beach, but the momentum gained from that result could spur them on still further.
We have relied on the inadequacies of those below us all season to keep out heads above water. Now it seems they can’t even rely on that any more.
It is important, however, to remain positive. Everton’s fate is still in their hands (just) and this was always going to be an awkward moment of the season, with Burnley having two home games in quick succession while Everton head to Anfield, with the Clarets taking on Wolves in Sunday’s early kick-off.
Chelsea will be tough after Sunday but it is at Goodison, while Leicester will have more than one eye on their Europa Conference League semi-final when they host the Toffees at the King Power.
The season-defining moment will then be the trio of games against Watford, Crystal Palace and Brentford. If they emerge from those still needing something from Arsenal on the last day, then start praying.
Richarlison’s last gasp equaliser against the Foxies in midweek also means Everton have avoided defeat in successive matches for the first time since October, with Goodison once again proving a tough nut to crack for rival teams.
There are some positives if you look closely enough.
The Grand Old Lady is still likely to be our best chance of salvation, with anything claimed on the road seen as a bonus.
There are tentative signs of progress. Whether it will be enough though is still unknown.
There isn’t really much else to be said about the old enemy. Jurgen Klopp has assembled a fine side that stands on the brink of history.
The Carabao Cup final is in the bag. An FA Cup final place is assured, Villarreal stand between them and a place in the Champions League final, while they sit just one point behind Premier League leaders Manchester City with six games left.
Last year’s fine 2-0 win aside Everton’s record at Anfield is dreadful, so even a point would be a fantastic result given the circumstances.
Everton 1-4 Liverpool. December 1, 2021
A thoroughly miserable evening as Rafa Benitez continued to drag Everton to new depths. Liverpool romped to their biggest win at Goodison for nearly 40 years, prompting near mutiny from the furious supporters in the stands.
To think Benitez stayed in his job for another six weeks after this.
Everton will again be without Dominic Calvert-Lewin with the striker nursing a minor thigh issue.
Donny van de Beek and Andre Gomes are also sidelined. Frank Lampard will make a decision on whether to play Yerry Mina so soon after he made his comeback from 10 weeks out against Leicester.
What they said
Everton boss Frank Lampard: “It is a huge fixture and I am very proud to be managing this football club and going into a game this size.
“I have watched it from afar many times and marvelled at the atmosphere and history of the game, so I am very happy to be involved.
“This game is a one-off, it brings different energy. The reality is, we are going up against one of the best teams in the world, on current form.
“We will prepare as we always do, with an idea of how we want to play.
“I expect passion, fight and desire, there is not a gameplan that will work without those things. Especially in a game of this size and type.”
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp: “These derbies never lacked intensity, to be honest. I love intensity in football, I love physicality in football but just in the rulebook and just make sure that we all stick to that, don’t go over the top, these kind of things, [don’t] make it like in the ‘good old times’, let me say it like this, and even we suffered from these situations.
“I just want to have a very intense, very physical and legally-aggressive football game but not more, because we play games after the derby as well – we should not forget, all of us.
“That’s all. But apart from that, it was always very intense and, yes, this one is important for both, but I cannot remember when it was not important for us. I can’t remember.
“I don’t know where we would have been without the points against Everton or [where] we could’ve been if we would have won last year, which we lost obviously – that would’ve been very helpful. Yeah, maybe a little bit more but always intense.”
It is hard to cross Stanley Park and not feel a sense of dread at the best of times, but with Everton’s Premier League future on the line makes things seem a whole lot worse. Plenty of eyes will also be on Burnley’s game with Wolves in the early kick-off, which will determine whether the Blues start the game in the bottom three or not.
Whatever happens – good or bad - we all need to move on quickly as there is plenty of work to be done yet.