Few games arouse as much interest in the UK as the Merseyside Derby. In recent years the gulf between the blue and red halves of Liverpool has closed somewhat. Last season Everton finished above their bitter rivals Liverpool and this season they could both be involved in the race for a top four finish.
Liverpool are in great form and currently sit second, two points above sixth placed Everton. Liverpool, despite being away are favourites at 2.45, whilst Everton are just outside at 2.90 for a win and a draw available at 3.35.
Liverpool should field a similar team to the side that won 4-0 against Fulham, with the possible addition of Jose Enrique coming in at left back. Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge will lead the line (assuming Sturridge passes a fitness test), supported by Philippe Coutinho playing off the left.
Everton's squad is relatively thin so there isn't much scope for changes. Ross Barkley, who has been one of their best performers missed their last game, but should return to play behind Romelu Lukaku.
Everton haven't scored in their last two fixtures, but they have added a goal threat this season under Roberto Martinez, with the acquisition of Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea on loan.
Liverpool's 3-5-2 formation also means that there is likely to be goals. They have kept just one clean sheet (against Fulham) in their six games in this formation, conceding eight goals in the process. That said, Liverpool have largely been outscoring their opponents, having netted 16 goals in this period, with Arsenal the only team to prevent them scoring a goal.
This is a game that will surely provide goals. Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez up front will be Liverpool's main threat having scored 16 of Liverpool's 21 goals so far this season. The pair have looked unplayable at times and will be more than ready to cause problems for an aging, yet still impressive Sylvain Distin and England defender Phil Jagielka.
Lukaku will be the main goal threat for Everton, having scored 36% of their league goals so far this season. Only four players (including Suarez and Sturridge) have contributed a higher percentage of their team's goals.
The Belgian is a powerhouse forward, capable of unsettling any defence, especially with Ross Barkley running off of him and supplying him. In this tie, playing against a back three, he could give himself one-on-ones with Liverpool's most central centre-back.
Can Baines hold the key for Everton?
Leighton Baines hasn't been at his creative best of late. The Everton defender's importance has reduced a little bit with him creating just 1.27 chances per game this season, compared to an average of three per game last year. Everton are now attacking as much down the right as they are down the left, as the below graphic documenting where they are creating their chances, highlights:
In fact, Everton are creating more chances down the right hand side this season, than the left, a stark contrast from last year, where Everton played through their left-back.
Baines still has a huge role to play against Liverpool. With Liverpool's 3-5-2, Everton's use of width could be hugely important. Baines will get a free run down the left flank, with only Glen Johnson for company. If Liverpool resort back to a 4-4-2, as they did versus Fulham, he could still have joy given that Jordan Henderson would likely play on the right, where he'd be inclined to come inside.
Width could hold the key for Everton and if Baines can get into space and really get a run at Johnson we could see an interesting duel between two of this season's most in-form full-backs. In the 3-5-2 this would be particularly noteworthy though, as Baines can look to get in behind and double up with Steven Pienaar on Johnson.
This season’s Merseyside derby could be one of the most memorable in recent years. With the two sides separated by just two points, there is an added edge to this tie. Roberto Martinez's side started the campaign well, but their form has tailed off a bit in the last two games. Brendan Rodgers will be desperate for his side to record a big result in this fixture, considering his side finished behind Everton last season.
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