Monday 19th December 2016 – 20.00 – Sky Sports 1
Lastly and certainly not least, match round 17 is capped off by one of the biggest games in the Premier League calendar, where form goes out the window; The Merseyside derby.
This fixture has everything, passion, goals, history and drama. The Merseyside derby has seen 21 red cards since the Premier League started, more than any other in Premier League history.
Whilst form should be left on the doorstep of a derby game, it is something that actually needs to be considered in this case given the difference between how the two sides have been performing of late.
Everton had been nose diving following a great start to the season, they only have 2 wins in the last 10 games, 1 of those coming against Arsenal on Tuesday, a game they really needed to win.
Given the quality throughout the Everton squad they should be aiming for a Europa League finish at minimum, but given how tight the league is at the minute, one defeat could demote them down as far as 11th depending on other results. The Arsenal win therefore probably came at the right time, stopping the winless streak of 6 games against very worthy opposition. This was just the kind of morale boosting win needed going into a game of this magnitude.
One thing Everton do seem to have this season is a great team spirit, willing to fight until the last minute; Ronald Koeman wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact the Toffees have won 11 points from losing positions in the Premier League this season, more than any other side. They have also scored a goal in the final 5 minutes in 4 of their last 5 Premier League matches. On 3 of these occasions the goal has changed the outcome of that match. This is something Liverpool will have to be careful about, especially as the defensive capitulation at Bournemouth will still be in their memory.
Romelu Lukaku has been involved with 12 of Everton’s 21 goals this season, just under 60% which shows his importance to the team. Only Alexis Sanchez and Diego Costa have been involved with more goals for their respective sides.
However this is also a stat shared by one of Liverpool’s most improved players Adam Lallana. He has also been involved in 12 goals for Liverpool this season, scoring 6 and assisting 6. His form under Klopp has been much improved as he has more creative licence and the ability to interchange his position with other likeminded players.
Another player who has benefited from Klopp’s management is Divock Origi. He has scored in his last 5 games for Liverpool in all competitions, the longest consecutive scoring run at the club since the 8 games Daniel Sturridge managed in early 2014.
And this will be what Everton will have to deal with on Monday night. A team set up for fast paced attacking football, with the right balance of players to do it. The evidence is for all to see as Liverpool are currently the league’s top goal scorers with 40 goals. This means so far this season they have averaged 2.5 goals per game.
Liverpool also have the highest shot accuracy in the league with 52% with Everton in 2nd place with 50%, level with Spurs.
Defensively Liverpool, along with Everton have conceded the most goals out of the top 9 teams in the league. Goal keeper Loris Karius had made headlines recently for the wrong reasons, still finding his feet in the Premier league. Given a few high profile mistakes, Klopp reverted back to Simon Mignolet between the sticks for their 3-0 win over Watford, and he will keep his place in the starting XI especially given the hostile atmosphere they will encounter at Goodison Park, a factor that could be a bit much for Karius to deal with.
I find it hard to see how Everton will beat Liverpool given the form and confidence of both teams, especially considering Everton have only won 1 of their last 19 Premier League Merseyside derbies. With that said, I didn’t see Everton beating Arsenal mid-week, so they have proved once again on their day they can beat anyone. It’s time they need to go on a run, and beating Liverpool could be the start of that. Either way the result goes, we are in for a great game.
By Michael Thatcher