Everton held Liverpool to a draw in the Merseyside Derby in September but with their season failing to get off the ground and with Liverpool being the current in-form side in the league, the fixture is going to be a real test for Roberto Martinez.
Coming into the game on the back of a win over Bolton in the fourth round of the FA Cup, where Philippe Coutinho produced a moment of excellence by thundering his late winner in off the bar, Liverpool are once again looking dangerous in front of goal.
The other obvious bonus for Brendan Rodgers is the return of Daniel Sturridge, but with the Northern Irishman remaining tentative over how much exposure to give him so shortly after a long lay-off, his initial place in the side for tomorrow remains uncertain.
Romelu Lukaku got himself back on the score sheet for the Toffees last week to end their run of ten games without a win, and with an impressive record of four goals in the last five Premier League fixtures against Liverpool, Martinez will be hoping his frontman can produce the goods.
Meanwhile, Aaron Lennon may make his first appearance for Everton since his January transfer from Tottenham and Reds’ skipper Steven Gerrard looks set to play in his final Merseyside Derby.
KICK-OFF: Saturday 5:30pm
Everton vs Liverpool combined XI
Everton vs Liverpool combined XI
1/10 GK: Simon Mignolet
This isn’t exactly a vintage tie for goalkeepers with the Belgian struggling this season, though he has been much improved in recent weeks. Tim Howard, out through injury, would run him close despite a poor season of his own, while Joel Robles is a weak link for the Toffees.
2/10 DEF: John Stones
The demise of Sylvain Distin has been sad to see but Stones has all the tools to be a top-class defender in the future, for club and country. He is a little over-confident in possession sometimes and can get caught on the ball. Mamadou Sakho has all the physical tools to succeed in the Premier League but is too prone to lapses in concentration.
3/10 DEF: Martin Skrtel
Phil Jagielka’s poor form is one of the biggest reasons Everton have slipped so far this season, the England man was a rock last year but has really struggled this term. Skrtel has his critics – he’s slow and not the most comfortable on the ball – but he is a solid defender.
4/10 DEF: Leighton Baines
The England left-back is probably Everton’s biggest attacking threat, with great set-piece delivery and an unbridled willingness to get forward. Defensively he is suspect, however, but his eight assists push him past the improving Alberto Moreno.
5/10 MID: Lucas
The Brazilian holding midfielder is not quite back to his very, very best, but he is close. Lucas has been pivotal in Liverpool’s return to form, providing the perfect screen for the defence and allowing their other players to push forward without hesitation. Besic has improved as the season has gone on – and out-performed Gareth Barry - but is not quite up to Lucas’ level.
6/10 MID: Steven Gerrard
In the battle of the geriatric former England midfielders, Gerrard edges past Barry. Back when these teams met in September Barry would have been picked but he has regressed hugely this season after his brilliant loan spell last year. Gerrard was suffering at the start of the season but has improved since being pushed slightly further forward by Rodgers.
7/10 MID: Jordan Henderson
Another anomaly sees central midfielder/jack of all trades Jordan Henderson face-off with out-and-out winger Kevin Mirallas. Lazar Markovic might have battled Mirallas but he has been ruled out of the game. The Belgian Mirallas has been seemingly trying to find a way out of Goodison Park in the last month and needs to show the form and goals to match his clear talent. Jordan Henderson is one of Liverpool’s most important players, providing drive and energy from midfield, as well as filling in as a wing-back when needed.
8/10 FW: Philippe Coutinho
Since suffering the injury that kept him out of the World Cup in the summer, Ross Barkley has unfortunately not been the same player. Where he scored six goals last season he has just one so far this term. Coutinho can drift in and out of games but has undoubtable match-winning talent; as shown by the fantastic goal he scored against Bolton in midweek.
9/10 FW: Raheem Sterling
In Daniel Sturridge’s absence Sterling, still only 20, became Liverpool’s most important player. He has six goals in his last 11 in all competitions and provides a direct, lightning fast threat that defenders hate to deal with. Steven Naismith is an important player for Roberto Martinez, and can be a match-winner, but even the most blue-nosed Everton fan would gladly swap him for Sterling.
10/10 FW: Romelu Lukaku
Picking the Belgian ahead of the England striker was easily the hardest decision to make and could go either way. Lukaku has not played like the £28m striker Everton thought they were getting in the summer, with just 10 goals in 31 matches so far this season. But Daniel Sturridge, as good as he has looked on his return, has played just 50 minutes of football since his return. Lukaku needs to live up to his hefty price-tag if Everton are to win this game and improve during the rest of the season.
PAST THREE MEETINGS…
Liverpool 1 (Gerrard) Everton 1 (Jagielka), Premier League, September 2014
Liverpool 4 (Gerrard, Sturridge 2, Suarez) Everton 0, Premier League, January 2014
Everton 3 (Mirallas, Lukaku 2) Liverpool 3 (Coutinho, Suárez, Sturridge), Premier League, November 2013
There have been 20 red cards handed out during the Merseyside derby, more than any other fixture in Premier League History.
Lukaku has scored four in his last five Premier League Merseyside derbies while Daniel Sturridge has scored five in his last six.
Everton have won only three of their last 12 Premier League games at Goodison Park.
Gerrard has scored ten goals in 32 games against Everton to become the highest Merseyside derby scorer in Premier League history.
Everton to win: 9.4
Liverpool to win: 5.4
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