Everton v Liverpool: Brendan Rodgers predicts intense game at Goodison Park
The sides meet in the early kick-off on Saturday
Friday 22 November 2013
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists his and Everton counterpart Roberto Martinez's preference for possession football will take none of the intensity out of the 221st Merseyside derby.
After last season's 2-2 draw at Goodison Park Reds captain Steven Gerrard, frustrated after Luis Suarez had a last-minute winner ruled out, labelled the Toffees a "long ball team similar to Stoke".
However, the match statistics did not back up his assessment and he retracted the slur a couple of days later.
When they meet again on the blue side of Stanley Park on Saturday possession stats will be even more keenly scrutinised as new Everton boss Martinez has a ball-playing philosophy similar to the one Rodgers has implemented at Anfield.
But the Reds manager does not think both teams trying to maximise their time on the ball will take any fire out of an encounter which has witnessed 20 red cards in 42 Premier League meetings.
"It is going to be a fiercely-competitive game," he said.
"It doesn't take the intensity out by having the football. The idea of having possession is to penetrate and have aggression in your game.
"A lot of our game is based on that aggressive nature. It won't take anything out of the game, it will only add to it.
"Our game is based upon the intensity of our pressure, to get the ball back as quickly as we can and look to have superiority with numbers around the ball.
"When you analyse our last performance against Fulham (a 4-0 home win) and assess it over and above the result we were just short of 700 passes in the game, which for me is a sign of the fluidity and the fluency of the team as much as anything.
"Our rhythm in the game was good. We had nearly 70 per cent of the ball but with that we had 30 shots at goal and we scored four goals and could have had more.
"It just typified the confidence of the players and their belief.
"We are averaging two goals a game and whatever ground we go to we always feel we can score.
"We (he and Martinez) have the inherent belief of dominating the ball, controlling the game with the football rather than without and looking to play attractive, attacking football.
"If a player makes a mistake trying to pass the ball we (he and Martinez) are both from the same bottle in terms of we will take the blame for them for asking them to be brave."
Despite drawing last season's two derbies Liverpool still finished below Everton in the league for the second successive season.
Rodgers, whose side sit second in the table three points and four places above their near-neighbours, believes they are a different team 12 months on.
Liverpool are 11 points better off than they were at the same stage last season and the Reds boss said that was down to improved consistency.
"Last year when we went to play this game there is no doubt Everton, who had finished above Liverpool for the first time in a while the season before, were very strong," he added.
"A season on it is different. Both teams are up there.
"This time last year they were sat fourth in the Champions League positions and went on and had a good season.
"They looked like they were maybe going to be in line for the top four but then dropped off a bit but they still finished in the top six.
"Both teams have made a very good start to this season and they are one of our rivals but it's no surprise Everton have been up there for the last few years.
"They've been very competitive and been up and around that level for a few years. Roberto has come in and he'll do an excellent job there."
Rodgers is confident the short trip to Goodison - where Everton have not lost in the league in 2013 - holds no fear for his players.
"I'd been there (Goodison) with Swansea but last year it was a totally different game," he said.
"It is a hostile environment but our players coped with it brilliantly.
"It is a ground which will test your character. If there is one thing we have improved on it is the resilience in the team.
"We will lose games but our ability to bounce back and be resolute is improving all the time."
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