Liverpool and Everton are set for a Merseyside Derby with a difference — two fans set the scene for a Premier League classic
The Merseyside Derby between Liverpool Football Club and Everton Football Club is one of the oldest and fiercest rivalries in world football.
It dates back more than a century and has been decisive in title races between two of England’s most-successful clubs.
But in recent years, it hasn’t been much of a rivalry at all. Liverpool has become the Premier League’s dominant force, and an ever-present challenger for Champions League honours, while Everton … has not.
This season though, Everton has made a fantastic start while Liverpool is coming off a shock 7-2 loss to Aston Villa, setting the scene for the most anticipated match-up in years.
We got diehard Liverpool fan Andrew McGarry and tortured Toffee Dean Bilton to assess their teams and look ahead to the big game.
How are Liverpool and Everton doing this season?
Liverpool FC: It’s been mixed. It doesn’t seem like there is a title hangover, and the new season has definitely been a welcome circuit-breaker after Liverpool’s less-than-stellar return after the COVID-19 shutdown.
There have been plenty of chances created, but the Reds’ conversion rate needs work.
At their best, they look capable once again of taking sides apart. The problem is their last match leaves them with a big point to prove — and a dangerous opponent to face.
Everton FC: Terrifyingly well.
Honestly, watching Everton this season has been a dream compared the utter garbage that has so often graced the Goodison turf in recent years.
Seven games in all competitions, seven convincing wins. Top of the Premier League, into the last eight of the League Cup. Playing wonderful football and scoring with ease.
It’s very, very weird. Long may it continue.
What has been the best part so far?
LFC: Not having to go into this season wondering when the league title drought would end.
Closely followed by the start to the season, when Liverpool avoided the banana skins of an opening trio of games against Leeds, Chelsea and Arsenal.
The win over the Gunners in particular seemed like a nice result, a 3-1 scoreline, including a first goal for new signing Diogo Jota.
EFC: Three key signings have transformed the team. Allan, Abdoulaye Doucoure and especially James Rodriguez have instantly turned Everton’s midfield from one of the worst in the league to one of the best.
In doing so, they’ve brought players like Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison and Lucas Digne to life, and completely turned the mentality of the squad around.
But to nail it down to one highlight? James is almost certainly the best footballer Everton has had in the Premier League era, and watching him play is just a joy.
And the worst?
LFC: No contest. Aston Villa 7, Liverpool 2. That’s right, SEVEN-TWO.
It was a horrendous reminder of the days when Liverpool could score plenty, but were never able to relax because of their habit of leaking goals at a furious rate.
After four games, Liverpool has conceded 11 goals. They let in 33 goals in 38 games last season, and 22 the season before.
Making matters worse, goalkeeper Alisson is out for a month, and his replacement Adrian is a definite downgrade.
The midfield and forwards need to remember how Jurgen Klopp’s press is supposed to work, and quick smart. And Virgil van Dijk needs to lift in central defence.
EFC: Jordan Pickford has been really bad. Basically the only goals Everton have conceded this season have been worldies or Pickford tossing one in.
Beyond that, the worst bit is the nagging feeling that this whole thing is going to come crumbling down in the most Everton way possible. Which normally means a derby pasting.
Why my head says we can win
LFC: Forget the streak — those stats actually tell you the Reds have only won twice in 10 years at the temple of Blue Merseyside.
This could end up a draw, as the last three derby encounters at Goodison have. But chances are that Liverpool will get back one or both of Sadio Mane and new midfield dynamo Thiago Alcantara, and with Jota in form they will have even more firepower than usual.
Also, Everton has been hell-bent on not losing to Liverpool at home in recent years. But parking the bus won’t cut it now for fans who are baying for them to beat the Reds.
The more they open up, the more Liverpool can take advantage.
EFC: This is a quite good, really balanced football team with some new players who care little for losing streaks or derby hoodoos.
Tactically, Liverpool’s full-backs will push high, which theoretically means those tasty little James diagonals to Richarlison on the left could bring Everton some joy.
The defence can sit back if need be, but is just as capable of playing through the lines nowadays, so Everton will be much more of a multi-dimensional threat than in any derby since that mad Martinez 3-3 in 2013/14.
Why my heart says we will lose
LFC: On the flip side: the stakes are real. Table-topping Everton suddenly has belief.
If the Toffees continue their early-season form, and Liverpool’s defence doesn’t get its act together, Goodison will be rocking for all the wrong reasons.
EFC: It’s a derby. Plenty of decent, in-form Everton teams have played terrible, out-of-form Liverpool teams during this decade of derby hell and conspired to lose.
If it’s not Pickford lobbing one onto Divock Origi’s head for no reason, it’s a jammy rebound to Mane, or a screamer from some 16-year-old kid (that FA Cup game from last year is still infuriating).
Besides that, this is a brilliant Liverpool team. There’s never any shame in losing to these Reds, as long as you give yourself a chance.
After that, who knows? Streaks have to end at some point …
When is the Everton vs Liverpool and how can I watch?
Kick-off is 10.30pm AEDT on Saturday, and Optus Sport will be broadcasting the match live in Australia.