The first Merseyside derby of the season is upon us and to say it’s looking like a rather one-sided clash would be a monumental understatement.
Whether it be by late goals or crushing wins, Liverpool have taken 40 points from their first 14 games of the season and are already eight points clear of Leicester City at the top of the Premier League table. Things couldn’t be going better for Jurgen Klopp and his European champions.
The same certainly cannot be said of Everton, though, with the Toffees winning just four of their 14 Premier League games so far, taking 14 points and sitting 17th in the table. Marco Silva is teetering on the edge of the managerial abyss.
All signs point to an emphatic Liverpool win but this is a derby and, despite Everton’s failings at Anfield over the years, Klopp will be wary of a potential shock. So, here are five things we think will happen in Wednesday’s game.
1. At least one red card
The “friendly derby” no more, this fixture has seen more red cards than any other Premier League fixture with 21, although one was later rescinded.
Everton’s best hope of upsetting their neighbours on Wednesday will involve disrupting Liverpool’s play and occasionally partaking in some of the “dark arts”, while this fixture always generates high amounts of passion regardless of the respective form of the two teams. With this in mind, don’t be surprised to see Mike Dean dipping into his pocket for a red card.
2. Liverpool late show
Liverpool have become late show experts this season and “Kloppage time” is actually starting to take its place in the English footballing dialect. This unwillingness to lie down has seen the Reds grind out result after result when, in previous seasons, they might have slipped up – for all their attacking talent and defensive solidity, this is arguably the key component to their success.
In Everton, they face a side more familiar than most in last-minute heartbreak against Liverpool, with the Reds famously grabbing a winner deep into injury time during last season’s Anfield derby, as well scoring late in January 2018, 2016 and 2013 to name but a few more instances. Expect more of the same here.
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3. Liverpool clean sheet
For all their defensive talent and ability to grind out wins, Liverpool are actually without a clean sheet in their last 12 games across all competitions. Granted, they’re unbeaten during that time, but Klopp will nonetheless be seeking to remedy their habit of conceding, lest it haunt them later this season.
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Doing so in a Merseyside derby would be a great start and given Everton’s blunted edge in this fixture, the odds are high. The Toffees have scored just five goals in their last 12 meetings against Liverpool, and have failed to score more than once against their rivals during that time, dating back to a 3-3 draw at Goodison Park in November 2013.
4. Klopp to go all out, Silva to play it safe
This is a meeting between two teams at contrasting ends of the spectrum, with managers under very different sorts of stresses.
At Anfield, in front of a raucous crowd, expect Klopp to go straight for the throat of his inferior, downtrodden opponent, bringing some of the heavy metal football which made Liverpool so much fun to watch during the early stages of his reign at the club. If Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino hit their stride, and Liverpool push their full-backs high, Everton could become swamped and may find it hard to cope.
But in fairness, Everton did show a more resolute side for most of their 2-1 defeat to Leicester, only crumbling late on in very unfortunate circumstances. Silva is likely to field a similar formation, instructing his side to soak up as much pressure as they can, keep it tight for as long as possible and hit Liverpool on the break. The Portuguese knows his side cannot win if they go toe-to-toe with the Premier League leaders.
Do Everton have what it takes to restrict Liverpool and steal an unlikely, potentially job-saving point? It’s hard to say yes with any conviction, but they’ll try nonetheless.
5. Divock Origi to score
We all remember Divock Origi pouncing on Jordan Pickford’s mistake in last season’s Anfield derby to give the Reds an unlikely, last-minute win and start on his path toward Liverpool folklore. That goal came in the Belgian’s first Liverpool appearance since August 2017 but was actually his third strike against Everton – his best record against any side for the Anfield club.
Origi is without a Premier League goal since August but found salvation against Everton last season, just as Kelechi Iheanacho did on Sunday and Norwich City the week before that. Ask any diehard Evertonian and they’ll tell you that if a player needs a goal, or a team needs a win, they will be the ones to provide it.