Preview: Liverpool vs Everton
The Merseyside derby: one of, if not, the biggest fixtures of the season. And it’s finally happening this weekend. For Kopites, it’s a chance to inflict misery on their bitter neighbours. Klopp will certainly hope that’s the case, as his team look to bounce back from their disappointing defeat to PSG in the Champions League. The Toffees, led by Marco Silva, will be looking to build on their league victory against Cardiff last weekend. In a game which form counts for little, here are some things to expect from both teams.
Going back to last season, Richarlison was one of Watford’s standout performers. Under Marco Silva, the Brazilian made an explosive start to the campaign, with 5 goals in his first 12 Premier League appearances. Though that form eventually tailed off, going goalless from from November onwards, he was still highly regarded by many. Now reunited with his boss at Goodison Park, the ex-Fluminese forward has made a similarly impressive start to the season, netting 6 goals in 11 league games. That form has led to him earning his national call up, where he has since established himself as a regular under Tite.
Likewise, Gylfi Sigurdsson is another to watch out for. Taking up a central role left by the departed Wayne Rooney, he has become Everton’s creator-in-chief. Besides creating, the Icelander is also quite an accomplished scorer. Last weekend’s match winner against Cardiff took his tally to 6 goals and 2 assists for the season.
With Richarlison so adapt at latching onto through balls from a centre forward position, Liverpool have to cut out the supply line feeding him. Focusing on Sigurdsson might be the sensible option, considering that he makes an average of 2.5 key passes per game. Together, the duo will be deadly, and Liverpool have to take extra precaution against them.
Against PSG on Wednesday, the midfield was left wanting, with Wijnaldum and Henderson having games to forget. Only 3 key passes were made, and all of them were by James Milner. It illustrated just how unimaginative the trio are together, with the attack suffering as a result with zero shots on target from open play.
Out of that trio, only Henderson is certain to miss the derby. The skipper was shown a second yellow card for a needless foul in the Watford game, therefore incurring an automatic 1 match suspension. Thankfully for Klopp, he has several options available to replace Henderson. While not a direct replacement, Shaqiri would certainly be contender to start the game. 2 goals and 2 assists for the season shows just how well he has adapted under Klopp, and his inclusion would address the creativity issues in midfield.
If Klopp is looking for a like-for-like replacement, Fabinho would be another option. While he has found it hard to nail down a starting spot, the Brazilian is undoubtedly talented. His last start against Fulham yielded 2 tackles and 2 interceptions, ultimately helping the Reds keep a clean sheet. The only issue is that he isn’t adapt playing in a midfield three, which may force Klopp to reshuffle his pack more than he likes.
With Keita also another player to be considered, Klopp has a key decision to make come Sunday. Getting the right balance in the middle would be the crucial step towards victory, and whoever’s picked for the job can’t afford to let the manager down again.
A More Proactive Approach
A year ago, Liverpool were held to a draw by their neighbours, despite having 79.4% of possession. It was incredibly frustrating for the home support, with Sam Allardyce’s men intentions made clear from the start.
Thankfully for fans, this year’s derby promises to be much more lively, with Everton undergoing a major transformation under Marco Silva. The biggest change is Everton’s ability to press from the front, mirroring the geggenpress employed by Klopp at Liverpool. Attacking players like Richarlison, Sigurdsson, and Cenk Tosun all ranked 3rd in the league for winning possession in the final third, doing it on 11 occasions. By doing so, they’re able to fashion more goal-scoring opportunities, with them netting an average of 1.54 goals per game this season.
With Marco Silva aiming to be the first manager to win his first league match against Liverpool at Anfield since 1894, Everton are likely to go all out. Klopp therefore needs to instruct his men to curb their attacking instincts, for fear of being caught out when the Toffees transition from defence to attack. But with history favouring the Reds – having not lost a Merseyside derby since 1999 – they should be confident of defeating their rivals, provided they execute the right game plan.