Merseyside Derby: In the showdown between Liverpool and Everton, who will come out on top?
Another edition of the Merseyside derby is set to take place today at Goodison Park and emotions run high in Liverpool as the city-clubs look to enforce their domination and earn the bragging rights for the Premier League’s most explosive fixture.
Few would need to told about the Merseyside derby but for those who do not know, this highly tense fixture in the Premier League takes place between two of the oldest clubs in the League – Liverpool and Everton.
Traditionally, this derby was known as the ‘friendly derby’ with many common families supporting both teams and is the only derby in England that does not enforce total fan segregation.
However, since the 1980s and especially since Liverpool’s triumphs at the European stage, the derby has now been termed the most ‘explosive’ and ‘ill-disciplined’ encounters, and is also accredited with having the most red cards between any two clubs in the Premier League.
With so much history, the emotions attached to the biggest fixture in Liverpool hardly comes as a surprise. Adding to the already heightened emotions, it will be Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard’s last derby, after he announced his departure from Anfield at the end of the season, and even though the two clubs are miles away from each other in terms of the league standings, both the fans would want their side to win this highly prestigious fixture.
However, in the past few years, Liverpool have been the more dominant side against their city rivals, with the Toffees finding it difficult to overcome the five-time European champions.
The Reds boast 41 wins at Anfield and 34 wins at Goodison Park against Everton’s 24 and 36 respectively. In the last 10 fixtures that the clubs have faced-off in all competitions, Everton have won only one time – October 17, 2010 at Goodison Park, while Liverpool have won four times.
However, both the managers – Brendan Rodgers (Liverpool) and Roberto Martinez (Everton) – have similar ideologies of pass and play, but while the Northern Irishman has found his form in the last month since the defeat to Manchester United, the Spaniard has been dangling at the bottom-half of the league table and still has not found the stride that Everton displayed last season.
Currently, the derby stands at a point where nothing except for the three points and the bragging rights matter. Everton need those three points to secure their position in the Premier League and also set a strong foundation for the Europa League next month, while Liverpool need those three points to keep their top-four challenge intact and mostly give the lads the encouragement for their new-found swagger.
Rodgers’ 3-4-2-1 miracle and Martinez’s lack of fluidity
The Liverpool manager had come under intense criticism as his side failed to deliver the results that the fans had gotten so used to last season. With the departure of Luis Suarez to Barcelona, Rodgers had found it quite difficult to get the new signings to adjust and click in a system which worked wonders in Liverpool’s challenge for the Premier League title.
However, following some high-pressure games and situations, Rodgers has finally found the system which seems to be unnerving for the opposition.
Playing three defenders on the back has allowed Rodgers to implement the fluidity and the attacking style of play that Liverpool had been getting associated with last season, and with Mario Balotelli and Gerrard on the bench. The Reds boss has finally found the flexibility in his system which has brought out the best from the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic and Emre Can.
Can has been all the more impressive, with the former Bayer Leverkusen midfielder filling in the position of centre-back to provide much-needed cover to Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho as Dejan Lovren fell out-of-favour for the position.
However, much of the criticism has been directed at the fact that Liverpool has not had to face any top clubs in their so-called renaissance and thus critics have pointed out that the seemingly ‘invincible’ 3-4-2-1 would be exposed and Martinez is the one person who can exploit Liverpool’s lack of numbers in the back.
Having only three players on the back does some benefit for the attacking style of play that Liverpool has adopted but makes them prone to a counter attack, if things don’t work out.
With the likes of Aaron Lennon joining the Toffees on-loan from Tottenham, Martinez has a lot of pace at his hands to launch a counter-attack and the 41-year-old needs to be ready for it once the opportunity arises.
Gerrard’s final derby – the captain eyes the win
Perhaps the biggest talking point ahead of the derby is Gerrard’s last encounter against Everton as a Liverpool player and even though the captain has had nothing but respect for his city-rivals, the Toffees would like to exact their revenge on the captain of their biggest rivals.
The former England captain has played 29 Premier League games against Everton, winning 16 and losing only four. The most interesting encounter was the 3-3 draw in November 2013 when Liverpool took the lead with Coutinho, only to be equalised by Kevin Mirallas. The Reds took the lead again with Suarez, but Romelu Lukaku scored two brilliant goals to give the Toffees the lead.
The Blues were looking for their first win at Goodison since 2010 but were denied in the closing stages of the game as Daniel Sturridge headed in from Gerrard’s free-kick to end the match as a draw.
We will have to wait and see who will come out on top but regardless of the outcome, one thing is certain – we are in for a great night of Premier League football between the oldest clubs in England.
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