Although they start the weekend just two points adrift of league leaders Manchester City, there is a wide and growing consensus that their recent form is falling below not only the standards they set early in the season – when they led the league for some weeks – but well below par for a team of their talents. This has been shown most clearly in Europe – a lacklustre defeat at PSG following an even worse one in Belgrade – but even while they’ve been winning domestically, they’ve hardly impressed with the manner of victory.
They could well do without a derby match right now, then, but that’s what they face here. Against an Everton side that’s lost just once in its last eight games and won six of them, Jurgen Klopp’s men won’t have things all their own way. The Toffees, increasingly looking like a very decent side under Marco Silva, are benefiting from the inclusion into the side of summer signings Bernard, Lucas Digne and Yerry Mina – and would like nothing more than to inflict their neighbours’ first league defeat of the season
Liverpool vs Everton Prediction: Liverpool 2-1 Everton
You have only to look at the recent visit to Chelsea to see that Everton are gaining in confidence as a team. Though the game ended 0-0, the visitors could well have nicked a win in different circumstances and they’ll fancy their chances against a home side who were poor in midweek. Nonetheless, there is a reason Everton haven’t won at Anfield this century, and these derbies tend to go the way of the side best set up for a slug-fest. That’s still Liverpool, by our reckoning, but it’s going to be a well-contested match and the visitors do have players who can hurt their city rivals.
Our recommended tip: Liverpool win and BTTS
The hosts come into this game minus central midfielder Jordan Henderson, who was sent off last week in a flattering 3-0 win at Watford. In truth, that might help by forcing Klopp’s hand to set up with a more dynamic midfield. Recent games have seen the Reds struggle to get much going forward from their central three, and if the more mobile Naby Keita deputises for Henderson here Liverpool are liable to look a lot more convincing in attack. That said, Everton are capable of scoring themselves, particularly with playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson enjoying his deployment as a deep-lying Number 10 much more than his season as a winger under Sam Allardyce.
Everton have gone more than eight years without a win over their city rivals – a 2-0 win in October 2010, with Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta the scorers against a Liverpool side struggling under Roy Hodgson.
More recently, it’s usually been Liverpool or the draw, although it’s positive for Everton that last season’s cut-and-thrust Reds couldn’t beat them in either league game. Mo Salah and Wayne Rooney swapped goals in a December 1-1 at Anfield, while the April return game saw a goalless draw. Liverpool did get a win over their rivals, though, Virgil van Dijk heading the winner on his debut as the Reds won an FA Cup tie 2-1.
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Players to watch: Joe Gomez & Richarlison
As Everton are likely to go with one central striker, and it will probably be Richarlison, Gomez is likely to be the player with a man-marking brief in the hosts’ central defence. The England international is blessed with plenty of pace and has grown into his role after playing much of his early Liverpool career as a full-back. Playing alongside the unflappable van Dijk will certainly have helped, but Gomez is becoming a top-class defender in his own right, and Everton will have a job on their hands to expose him.
Richarlison spent chunks of last season being linked with Chelsea and Manchester United, and it was a minor surprise to see him land at Everton instead. However, the move gave him a chance to link up with Silva, who managed him at Watford and got the best out of him. Since his move to Goodison Park, Richarlison has become the focus of Everton’s attack – and his pace and dribbling ability mean that’s made them a much better team to watch, as well as freeing up willing runners like Bernard to make more impact.