Liverpool v Everton. The Everton Forum preview

Right, I’ll make no bones about it, I absolutely hate this fixture.

Sure, maybe I should have a more positive attitude, maybe I should believe we’ll go there and win and who knows, maybe if we all thought like that, the players might actually make it happen.

But the thing is, I was 11 years of age when we last won at Anfield and next year I turn 30. My whole teenage and adult life, I haven’t seen us win there and we’ve played that lot away from home 18 times since (9 defeats, 9 draws).

We have to go all the way back to 27th September 1999 for our last win at Anfield, which came courtesy of Kevin Campbell’s winner. Since then, you could’ve had a child and they’d now be able to legally buy you a pint in a pub, but they wouldn’t have lived to see Everton win at Anfield… it’s a desperate state of affairs.

And what’s worse is, Liverpool haven’t even been brilliant in that 18 year period. Of course, they’ve had some decent teams, with two or three ‘werld class players, la’ but there have been times when we’ve been better than them – yet still, we can’t buy a win there (and even when we should’ve won 1-0 in May 2013 the referee came to their aid to generously disallow Sylvain Distin’s headed goal).

Surely this run can’t go on forever, surely one day, maybe when we least expect it, we’ll take home the 3 points but I’ll be honest, I’m not confident going into this – the 1st of 2 cracks we’ve got at them in the next month.

Anyway, let’s get into it… Sunday’s match kicks off at 2.15pm and is live on Sky Sports, weather permitting.

The Reds

Our hosts, them tricky reds, arrive at the 229th Merseyside derby full of confidence having just scored 13 goals in 180 minutes.

In a typical act of media cringe when it comes to this lot, Liverpool’s front 4 of Salah, Firmino, Coutinho and Mane has this week been labelled the ‘Fab 4’. I’ll give them their due, between them they have speed, agility, power, craft and ultimately the ability to score past most defences.

As an attacking unit, all 4 have the ability to interchange positions and offer a threat both coming in between the lines and going in behind the opposition defence. Obviously each has certain things they’re good at but the man I worry about the most in this match is Philippe Coutinho.

We’ve seen the Brazilian turn up against us time and time again and whilst I’ve often criticised his consistency over the course of a full season, he always seems to come to the party in the derby.

Unlike the other 3 attackers who I’d say were probably more goalscorers than creators, Coutinho has the ability to pick the lock of a stubborn defence. I’d imagine we’ll see Everton sit deep against Liverpool to try and limit the room in behind that Salah and Mane thrive on, so it could well come down to Coutinho to find a way through our rearguard.

Whilst each of the Libpool front 4 possess the ability to score goals and make the back pages, I’m sure it’s their work rate off the ball that, reds cheerleader-in-chief, Jurgen Klopp would also be quietly delighted with. All 4 press hard from the front and will be backed up in doing so by a tenacious midfield duo.

I suspect that midfield duo on Sunday will be Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum. If I’m honest, I don’t think either are particularly spectacular but frankly I don’t think that’s their job. Both run around a lot and so long as they’re working hard, Klopp is happy.

Henderson takes some set pieces, shouts a bit, does a good plastic hard-man impression and Wijnaldum pops up with the occasional goal by getting himself into the penalty area.

There is also the option of Juventus-bound Emre Can, however it’s plausible he’s deployed from centre half in the absence of Liverpool’s best centre half, Joel Matip. I’d personally have the German over Henderson every time but you can understand a manager easing a player out of the fold when they don’t see a future there.

Talking of Liverpool’s much-maligned defence, it’s actually quite surprising to see they’ve only conceded 2 league goals at Anfield this season. Everybody says they’re poor at the back and I tend to agree, but 2 goals conceded in 7 home games is undeniably good.

For this match, Klopp will be without 3 defenders; Matip, Moreno and the long-term absentee, Clyne. Leaving him with what looks like an uninspiring list of Klavan, Lovren, Gomez, Alexander-Arnold, Milner, Robertson and Emre Can.

To be honest, I’m not sure which of those he’ll select to play in his back 4 in front of Mignolet but if I had to guess, I’d suggest it might be Robertson, Klavan, Lovren and Gomez.

Obviously, Liverpool will try and play this game at 100 miles an hour in-front of their frothing at the mouth crowd. We can expect the ‘red men’ to give Everton players minimal time on the ball and our defenders will be rushed into hitting it long or making mistakes.

As always, they’ll fly out the traps, no doubt spurred on by the 3 minutes atmosphere at kick off and they’ll try to seize their moments to go for the kill. We regularly see Liverpool score twice in a short spell, so the blues will need to try and take the sting out of it, even if they fall behind.

In reserve they’ll have the likes of Sturridge, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Solanke who’ll all be keen to impress if given the chance. The stand-out name there for me is Sturridge because he always seems to have an impact against us, although I’m not sure Solanke has scored for them yet so that’s one reason for Everton alarm bells.

The one thing that could prove to be in Everton’s favour here is the weather. I can’t think any of Liverpool’s dangerous front 4 are especially used to snowy conditions, so who knows, if it comes and the game gets played, that could be the leveller the blues need to end this baron spell across the park.

The Blues

Right, that’s more than enough about them lot. I tried not to stoop into cheap shots, but sometimes, you just can’t help one or two.

Anyway, this has been a nice little week or so for us. David Unsworth saw us to a great win over West Ham, Sam Allardyce continued the trend with a routine win against Huddersfield and Craig Shakespeare took a reserve side to Cyrpus to win pleasingly.

3 matches, 3 managers, 8 goals scored and 0 conceded. So, for just a moment, we can be forgiven for thinking Everton are on the up!

I’ve got to say, (and I know it’s early days) for me, it’s so far so good with Sam Allardyce. He’s said the right things, he’s made the right decisions and hopefully, we can really end this season strongly – results so far haven’t seen the league really get away from us so a good December, with winnable games to come, could see us enter 2018 into the top 8 or so with the January transfer window springboard to come.

I thought it was absolutely the right call (regardless of the result) to send an in-and-out side across to Cyprus. It gave youngsters an opportunity to see what it’s all about and a chance for first team players on the fringes to stake a claim ahead of what is always a busy month of fixtures.

My only slight disappointment was that Sandro Ramirez wasn’t given a chance to start a game, but hopefully that was down to injury rather than a poor attitude – even if claims of the latter have disappointingly come to light recently.

I wouldn’t expect to see any of Thursday night’s team start this derby, but the likes of Lookman and Vlasic (both excellent in Cyprus) should make the bench, probably alongside the more senior trio of Robles, Schneiderlin and Mirallas (none of whom were awful, in my opinion).

Probably the biggest question when it comes to selection for Sunday is in defence. I thought Mason Holgate and Ashley Williams (I know!) were both really good against Huddersfield, yet with Jagielka and Keane both available again – it’s possible we’ll see a switch to a back 3 for a game Allardyce has admitted will see Liverpool have most possession.

If we do go for a back 3 and wing backs, I really hope Mason Holgate continues in the three as he’s the only one who really has the recovery pace to deal with Salah or Mane, should either get away from us. My fear however, is Allardyce will find it tough to overlook the 3 more experienced men; Williams, Keane and Jagielka in what will be a daunting game with a ‘big atmosphere’.

With Leighton Baines injured and Martina due to continue at left back, I feel a back 3 is even more likely, as Martina at left back in a 4 could be a considerable weak link. Local lad and boyhood Evertonian Jonjoe Kenny will probably continue at right wing back and no doubt relish the occasion (love Jonjoe’ pashun).

In midfield, I think it’s likely we’ll see Wayne Rooney and Idrissa Gana Gueye continue with Gylfi Sigurdsson. It’s possible that Tom Davies continues, but with the recent form of Sigurdsson and Rooney as well as the legs of Gana, I don’t see a starting role for Tom here after a medicore performance against Huddersfield.

With the 1st of the 2 remaining spots, I think it’s likely Allardyce will find room for the experience and work rate of Aaron Lennon, who’ll work back well to protect Jonjoe Kenny – with whom he’s struck a nice little bond of late.

I appreciate the inclusion of Lennon may leave the side looking a little lob-sided with Gylfi Sigurdsson shaping up on the left, however whilst many are keen to suggest he plays best centrally, a lot of his touches against Huddersfield came down the left hand side – even if his goal came from drifting towards the middle.

Up top I think we’ll see Dominic Calvert-Lewin continue to operate in the lone striker role following his impressive display last time out, meaning Niasse will likely remain on the bench.

I was quite critical in recent previews, but the youngster Calvert-Lewin did do well against Huddersfield, getting a lovely assist and a well-deserved goal.

Should Allardyce go with a back 4, it’s plausible he’ll throw another midfielder in from the off to try and crowd the middle of the pitch – probably Davies, but I personally think he’ll go to Anfield hoping to maintain the clean sheet first and foremost, even if inviting pressure onto our goal might not be the best of ideas against a team in red hot goal scoring form.

My predicted team for this is (albeit I think it’ll be more a 5-4-1) –

One advantage we will have is the fact our entire starting 11 should be rested having not played in 8 days. After the Huddersfield victory, the manager stressed the players hadn’t had a day off in a while, so gave them a couple of days to rest which may pay dividends later in the game on Sunday.

Since their return from that rest, you’d like to think Allardyce (who beat Liverpool at Anfield with Crystal Palace last season) and Sammy Lee have been working with the players meticulously on how Liverpool can be stopped… how deep we play, how tight we get to them, what they do from set pieces, how they like to move or dribble with the ball and so on.

What’s vitally important is we don’t do anything silly, we don’t gift them an early goal with a lapse, we don’t give the referee a decision to make in the penalty area, we stay deep in our shape, take the tempo away from them and look to frustrate them.

If we do go 1 down, we mustn’t panic like we have done in the past against these. They’ll come for the kill and the experienced players; Rooney, Jagielka, Williams et al must calm things down before the game’s gone before we know it.

Should the players do all that, stay nice and compact, get to 60 minutes level, we do have the ability to hurt this Liverpool defence and I’d like to think Gylfi Sigurdsson has been practising his set plays ready for his big moment, or maybe even Wayne Rooney would fancy collecting another donated mobile phone from the Anfield turf!

I’m sure there will be people saying let’s go and have a go at these, they’re poor at the back etc, but frankly, we just can’t do that – the speed of their attackers v our defenders would see us falling behind before we know it.

I’m certain the manager will have a game plan and even though many might think it’s dull or ‘Moyes away at the top 4’ – I see no alternative for this game and that’s just being realistic with the 2 sets of players.

It’s going to be tough, but it’s not impossible by a long shot, they’re good but by no means amazing. We went to City and took a point and they’ve won every other game – we can get a result at Anfield.

I just badly want that win. All the blue schoolkids around the City and the shite they’ve taken down the years, let’s give them something to cheer about in this game and heck, the blues in offices, building sites, pubs, universities, cross-family feuds, overseas – blues everywhere, let’s have something over this gang, please!

Let’s break the curse and go into the cup derby next month knowing we can do it again.

Finally, the referee is Craig Pawson. An extremely card happy referee who has already shown 4 reds this season (including an Everton player – Gana v Arsenal). I’ll just say this clown wouldn’t have been my choice for a Merseyside derby and leave it at that.

15 Premier League away games without a win – is there anywhere better to set that straight?

Let’s have these! COYFBB!!!!!

Blues, do you want somewhere friendly, funny and laid back to discuss this match or anything Everton. How about sport in general or anything else? Come join the Everton Forum. It’s dead easy and you won’t regret it. Link here – http://www.theevertonforum.co.uk/forum/

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