The Sean Dyche era continues with a short trip across Stanley Park to take on Liverpool in the 243rd Merseyside derby as Everton look to build on that thrilling win over league leaders Arsenal last time out.
That battling 1-0 victory, the Toffees’ first since October, breathed new life into a relegation battle they looked to be losing. They still might of course, but the arrival of Dyche and the impact he already looks to have made on the team has given them a fighting chance.
Sadly the terrible first half of the season has left Everton playing catch-up, with no room to breathe in the fixture list. Every game is a huge game and if they fail to take points it will only see them slip further behind.
It may only be early February, but I was already nervously checking the other results over the weekend to see what damage it would do to Everton’s survival prospects. But while there are still enough points for Everton to do the job themselves it is better to focus on the men in royal blue rather than elsewhere.
Those men in royal blue certainly restored a bit of pride last weekend. The impact Dyche had on the team in just five days was remarkable and does not reflect well on Frank Lampard. The former Chelsea boss will always be a popular figure among the fans given the effort and commitment he gave the club during his short tenure, but it already feels like he was kept in the job a few weeks too long. Had Dyche been given games against the likes of Wolves, Southampton and West Ham the table may already look different.
There is no point dwelling on the what-ifs though. Everton are where they are and results over the weekend mean a win will lift the Toffees out of the drop zone.
Speak to Liverpool fans this week and they will tell you Everton will not have a better chance of coming away with all three points this week. Part of that is self-preservation of course, we have witnessed too many Anfield capitulations to get over-confident, but the Reds are in a difficult place compared to the heights scaled in recent seasons.
Their breathless 2021-22 campaign, which saw them play every game they could possibly play, has caught up with some key players, while others have seen their form desert them.
The result is exits from both domestic cup competitions and a slump in league form that sees them languishing in 10th place having lost three out of their last four in all competitions, their worst winless run under Jurgen Klopp.
I don’t need to remind you though that Everton have an atrocious record at Anfield, winning just one of their last 22 visits.
Everton 0-0 Liverpool, 3 September 2022
The two sides played out an entraining 0-0 draw in the reverse fixture in September. Tom Davies and Darwin Nunez hit the woodwork during the first half before Conor Coady had a goal marginally ruled out for offside after the break. Dwight McNeil and Mohamed Salah both had efforts well saved late on as both sides pushed in vain for a winner.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin is rated as “touch and go at best” after coming off with a hamstring injury against Arsenal last weekend.
James Garner and Ben Godfrey are back in training but not yet ready for a return. Andros Townsend also remains absent, while Michael Keane is edging closer to full fitness.
What they said
Everton manager Sean Dyche: “We’re really looking for a performance. Last weekend, it was fantastic to get a win, but I was really looking for a reaction and a performance, and I think we’re still laying that down.
“We need to give another good performance on the back of one last week.
“There’s plenty of belief in what we do but it’s important to take action. When the whistle blows you’ve got to take action, and you’ve got to perform.
“The last one doesn’t guarantee the next one. I’ve been saying that for years.
“There’s been a lot of detail going into this week, a lot of planning going into this week, but the players are aware. We’ve got to go again, and that’s going to be the constant mentality throughout the rest of the season.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: “We know it’s a difficult game, Sean Dyche is now there and obviously a massive impact immediately, it was obvious. We have to prepare that – that’s what we did and will do in the upcoming days.
“This is not a time we wanted to have or a time we are happy to be in or whatever. But I think this is a time where as well we can show, if we want to show, that the club is really special. The boys delivered a lot of great moments in the last few years. In the moment, for different reasons – not all of them are clear – it’s not possible or we didn’t do it. But we are fighting for it, to change the situation in a better direction.”
I have been let down too many times to even get remotely optimistic about this game. What will be, will be.