Premier League football returns from the international break in style as Everton host Liverpool in the Merseyside derby on Saturday.
The Toffees have made their best start to a season since 1894/95, winning seven games across all competitions to leave them top of the Premier League and looking forward to an EFL Cup quarter-final clash with Manchester United.
With summer arrivals James Rodriguez, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure slotting in seamlessly and Dominic Calvert-Lewin in the form of his life, Carlo Ancelotti appears to have finally put his stamp on the blue half of Merseyside. But as impressive as their victories over the likes of Tottenham and Brighton have been so far, the real litmus test comes against Liverpool.
Sure, the Reds were remarkably dismantled 7-2 by Aston Villa prior to the international break, but Jurgen Klopp‘s men are still defending champions and currently enjoying a 22-game unbeaten streak in this historic fixture.
Here are five things we think could happen in what is arguably the biggest Merseyside derby in over a decade.
1. Everton v Liverpool predicted lineups
Predicted Everton line-up: Pickford; Coleman, Mina, Keane, Digne; Allan, Gomes, Doucoure; Rodriguez, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin.
Predicted Liverpool line-up: Adrian; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Thiago; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
2. A response from the defending champions
Almost two weeks have passed since Liverpool’s 7-2 thrashing at the hands of Aston Villa and we’re still all sat here wondering what the heck happened. The Reds fell apart at the feet of Jack Grealish, Ollie Watkins and Ross Barkley’s attacking onslaught and, honestly, seven goals probably didn’t quite do Villa justice.
However, if there’s one thing we know about Klopp’s Liverpool, it’s that they pick themselves back up quickly. The Reds have never lost back-to-back Premier League games under the German’s tutelage and it’s their ability to recover from setbacks that played such a huge part in them winning the Champions League in 2018/19 and the Premier League last season.
A number of senior players in the Liverpool dressing room have publicly stated their intentions to quickly right the wrongs of that humiliating defeat.
“We are a whole club that gets on very well and it’s time now that we make sure that this performance doesn’t happen again,” said left-back Andy Robertson. “Forget about the result, because they took every chance, but the performance simply wasn’t good enough and we need to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Meanwhile, James Milner posted on social media after the Villa defeat: “Nowhere near the level needed yesterday.
“We need to stand up, take everything on the chin, stick together and bounce back…and we will.”
Liverpool remain 5/6 favourites for this match with William Hill and although we could be in for one of the most competitive Merseyside derbies of the Premier League era, the Reds will be on a mission to exorcise their Villa Park ghost.
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3. Low goals
No side has scored more goals in the Premier League than Everton (12) so far this season while Liverpool are just behind with 11. However, recent history tells us this will be anything but a shootout.
Five of the last six Merseyside derbies have featured just a single goal, while the last three at Goodison Park have all ended goalless. Liverpool‘s 5-2 thrashing of Everton in December last year was a real outlier and the final nail in the coffin of a beleaguered Marco Silva.
Ancelotti‘s men have the third-best defensive record in the Premier League so far this season, conceding just five goals, and while Liverpool have conceded the second-highest number of goals (11), seven of those came in that one freak defeat to Villa. A record of four conceded in the three games prior to that makes for better reading.
Everton will be desperate to make a statement against their close rivals but have long suffered from derby nerves, while Liverpool have traditionally struggled to score at Goodison Park and may be happy enough to keep a clean sheet and slow the Toffees‘ momentum.
Relevant odds from William Hill:
- Under 2.5 goals YES @ 2/13
Everton vs Liverpool: Betting offer
William Hill are offering new customers enhanced odds of 50/1 on Dominic Calvert-Lewin to score during Saturday’s Merseyside Derby. If you’re over 18, Gamble Aware and meet the rest of the terms and conditions, you can click here to access the offer.
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4. Players to watch
Although we’re expecting a low-scoring affair, that doesn’t mean there won’t be drama on Saturday, especially with both Everton and Liverpool having so many in-form players in their line-ups capable of making a difference.
Rodriguez has taken the Premier League by storm so far but it is undoubtedly Calvert-Lewin who has been making the headlines for the Toffees. His nine goals in six games across all competitions this season were enough to earn him his first-ever senior caps for England, so of course he scored on his debut.
And for Liverpool, this match should mark the return of Sadio Mane, who has sat out the last two games against Arsenal and Aston Villa.
The Senegal international already has three goals in three Premier League games himself this season, including a brace in the Reds’ impressive 2-0 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last month. Mane has scored four Premier League goals against Everton to date, including three in Liverpool colours. If anyone is going to silence the Blues, it’s likely to be him.
5. Another Goodison draw
We’ve already mentioned how tight these games usually are, as well as the three consecutive Goodison 0-0s, but even more remarkable is the record of seven draws in the last nine meetings between these two at the home of the Toffees since Everton last beat Liverpool back in October 2010; David Moyes and Roy Hodgson were the men in the dugout that day.
Sure, the likes of Rodriguez, Allan and Doucoure are free of the scars of this fixture, while most Evertonians would puff out their chest and tell you this is their best chance of beating Liverpool in recent memory. But we’ve been here before and for one reason or another, the Reds just seem to have a hold over Everton.
And just as much as Everton are desperate to finally claim some Merseyside bragging rights, Koppites love nothing more than to silence their closest neighbours, just when they’re at their noisiest.
A game with one side and a point to prove coming up against another looking to bounce back is perfectly set up to end all square.
Relevant odds from William Hill:
- Everton vs Liverpool to end in a draw @ 29/10