True-blue Cahill vows not to see red in latest battle with the enemy

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The Independent Football

It certainly does not look as if anyone's smiling approaching the maelstrom of a Merseyside derby.

Steven Gerrard pretty much summed it up a few years ago in reflecting on a 1999 match at Anfield, when Gérard Houllier left him out of the team. "I wanted to be in there sorting Everton out. 'If you get on', I said to myself, 'just belt one of them. Fucking belt a bluenose.'" And he did, Everton's Kevin Campbell being the recipient of a tackle and Gerrard the recipient of a red card.

He was not the last, of course. The sum total of players sent off in Sunday's lunchtime fixture now stands at 19 in 36 matches during the Premier League era (10 of them at Goodison) and 10 have gone in the last 11 games. Tim Cahill's red card came in his side's anaemic 2-0 defeat at Goodison in September 2008 – another season when David Moyes' side started poorly, with League defeats to Blackburn and Portsmouth and boos accompanying a League Cup exit at Ewood Park three days before.

After six years of living this fixture, Cahill said he really does smile when the first full-blooded challenge goes in. "I always have a smirk whether one of them goes in hard on us or vice versa," he reflected. "For some of their players I know what it means, people like Gerrard and [Jamie] Carragher, just like it does to the likes of Hibbo (Tony Hibbert), Ossie (Leon Osman) and myself on our side. I expect to be hit early. I expect to be roughed up.

"In the past myself and others have been sent off, there have been tackles going in, but now I think there's a mutual respect on the pitch. You expect Carragher and Gerrard to go in hard in the first three minutes. It's whoever can set the tone and put their stamp on it which will have a big effect on the game. It's a compliment in football when you get kicked. It's how you react and mine will be fine."

That's not how this fixture seems, though. The terrace vitriol Gerrard gets still knows no limits – "Everton's fans have grown to despise me," he once said – and for Everton there is that sense of indignation that Liverpool bring out in them, with Rafael Benitez's barb about them being "a small club" being hard to leave behind.

Yet here comes an occasion when Everton really can benefit from a calmer demeanour, because Liverpool suddenly look a lot "smaller" than they once did, arriving across Stanley Park amid the mayhem of their worst League start since 1953, not to mention this week's ownership chaos.

Cahill does not pull his punches on the damage wreaked by Liverpool's fall from grace. "Put in terms of what they have spent, what we have, what they've had and now don't, it's not rocket science to say it's affected them," he said. "For us there is no comparison. Our manager has worked within a good budget and brought in players who love playing for the club. We don't have the chance to go and spend £40m a season. We have to be cuter and bring through great young talent. The pressure's been brought on by themselves, by what they've spent." Words which contribute a little more spice to this weekend's occasion.

Cahill's titanic battle with Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic, which he edged as Everton drew 3-3 last month, is one he sees himself replicating against Carragher. "On the pitch it's fantastic pitting your wits against someone like Vidic," he said. "You have to pick your challenges out on the pitch and deal with it in the right manner."

If Cahill, the only Everton player to have scored more than once this season, does so again tomorrow, he will become Everton's leading post-war scorer in League derby games with five, beating the record he currently shares with Duncan Ferguson. "It's unbelievable. The feeling of beating Liverpool is up there with the best of my career. [That's why] we are both so passionate and I've become more wound up in the competition of [these games.]" Cahill's conclusion puts all the talk about of a more considered approach to this fixture into context.

Mersey Marching Orders

In the 36 Merseyside derbies of the Premier League era, there have been 19 red cards, a record number for any league fixture.

Liverpool 1-0 Everton, 6 February 2010

Sotirios Kyrgiakos (Liverpool) for a two footed tackle (34 min).

Steven Pienaar (Everton), second yellow card (90).

Everton 0-2 Liverpool, 27 September 2008

Tim Cahill (E), a dangerous lunge (80).

Everton 1-2 Liverpool, 20 October 2007

Tony Hibbert (E), foul as last man (53).

Phil Neville (E), deliberate handball (90).

Liverpool 3-1 Everton, 25 March 2006

Steven Gerrard (L), second yellow (18).

Andy van der Meyde (E), elbow (73).

Everton 1-3 Liverpool, 28 December 2005

Phil Neville (E), second yellow (68).

Mikel Arteta (E), late foul (90).

Everton 1-3 Liverpool, 20 March 2005

Milan Baros (L), high tackle (77).

Everton 1-2 Liverpool, 19 April 2003

David Weir (E), second yellow (82).

Gary Naysmith (E), second yellow (90).

Everton 2-3 Liverpool, 16 April 2001

Igor Biscan (L) second yellow (77).

Liverpool 3-1 Everton, 29 October 2000

Thomas Gravesen (E) foul as last man (77).

Liverpool 0-1 Everton, 27 September 1999

Sander Westeveld (L) and Francis Jeffers (E), involved in a scuffle (74).

Steven Gerrard (L), high tackle (90).

Liverpool 1-1 Everton, 16 April 1997

David Unsworth (E) and Robbie Fowler (L), squared up to one another (82).

Benji Inwood