PREVIEW | EVERTON VS LIVERPOOL
They don’t come much bigger than Everton’s next match, the 241st Merseyside Derby.
Last season’s runners-up Liverpool will make the trip to Goodison Park to reignite one of the fiercest rivalries in English football.
The Toffees are still in search of their first win in the Premier League this season and only their second win over the Reds since October 2010.
Meanwhile Jurgen Klopp’s men come off the back of two consecutive victories at Anfield, including a 9-0 demolition of Bournemouth.
The Goodison factor
The events of 2022 has seen something of a renaissance within the Blues’ famous old ground.
The tumultuous support from the stands all but dragged Everton out of danger at the end of last season and while perhaps the crowd hasn’t quite maintained those same levels so far this campaign, there were certainly encouraging signs in recent trips to Leeds and Brentford.
It will be the first derby contested at Goodison in this time, a fixture Evertonians are always up for anyway, and the atmosphere will no doubt play a huge factor if the Toffees are to get a result.
The transfer window has now slammed shut and there could potentially be several new faces in the Everton line-up for the derby.
Neal Maupay was signed last Friday but could not be registered in time for matches against Brentford or Leeds, the latter of which Frank Lampard actually prepared for with the Frenchman in mind, therefore implying he will make his debut against Liverpool now he is available.
Meanwhile, Idrissa Gana Gueye and James Garner were both signed on Deadline Day in order to bolster the Everton midfield but Lampard’s pre-match press conference suggests neither will start although it is possible they will be on the bench.
Four or five-at-the-back?
Another question to ponder is which system will the Toffees employ in the derby.
They have begun their season with a five-at-the-back which drew criticism from supporters for how often it saw the side outnumbered and overrun in midfield.
However, injuries to key defenders perhaps forced Lampard’s hand in the last match against Leeds which saw a four-at-the-back system used, arguably to greater effect as the Blues looked more positive going forward while still maintaining a reasonable level of defensive solidity.
Although using three central defenders in order to help contain Liverpool’s lethal front three might seem tempting, it would surely be advisable for Everton to continue with the four-at-the-back formation.
One to watch – Neal Maupay
As touched upon earlier, Maupay looks certain to start at centre forward as a result of Salomon Rondon’s patchy form at best and Dominic Calvert-Lewin still on the road to recovery.
Much has been written about the 26-year-old’s ability to wind up opponents which could give the hosts an edge in what is bound to be a heated match.
But Maupay also offers a lot in way of footballing ability and will provide that natural striker role the Toffees have been longing for all season.
Supporters will be hoping he works well off whoever starts on the wings out of Anthony Gordon, Demarai Gray and Dwight McNeil and that the Frenchman can grab a debut goal in a match where it matters the most.
One to watch – Trent Alexander-Arnold
A Liverpool fan growing up, Trent Alexander-Arnold knows that overwhelming desire to be victorious in the derby all too well.
As ever, his will to bomb down the right and send in pinpoint passes will be one of the Reds’ most effective weapons in this match.
One of his targets could potentially be striker Darwin Nunez, Liverpool’s new record signing who is available for selection once more after serving a three-match suspension for headbutting Crystal Palace’s Joachim Andersen.
There’s no getting away from the fact that Everton’s derby record is abysmal and with the way each of these sides have begun their season, a win for the Blues seems more unlikely than ever.
But it’s been an odd sort of year for the Toffees and on more than one occasion they have managed to pull off a result seemingly through sheer will.
Will this be the case once more on Saturday?