This season’s first Merseyside derby of the season takes place on Saturday lunchtime and it could be rather different from derbies of recent seasons.
Everton boss Roberto Martinez and Liverpool’s Brendan Rodgers both come from the same school of football philosophies.
Everton boss Roberto Martinez blazed a trail at Swansea in installing possession based, passing football at the Welsh club in his stint at the club between 2007 and 2009.
Everybody at the Welsh club bought into the philosophy and the Swans still play a similar style under Danish boss Michael Laudrup.
Ironically, it was Reds boss Brendan Rodgers that took over at Swansea in 2010 to successfully continue the Spaniard’s work at the Liberty Stadium. #
Martinez got the Welsh club promoted to the Championship and Rodgers managed the Swans to the promised land of the Premier League.
It took the Liverpool players awhile to take on board Rodgers style of play, but this season the players now seem to understand better how the Irishman wants his team to play. The Reds are now playing attractive, passing football, which has brought excellent results.
Roberto Martinez’s appointment at Everton was greeted with a mixed reaction. Although he is highly-regarded in coaching circles, his Wigan team had just been relegated from the Premier League, despite winning the FA Cup.
However, Martinez has changed the style of Everton’s play and the results under the Spaniard have proved impressive so far this season. The Toffee’s are currently sixth in the Premier League, five points behind league leaders Arsenal.
Everton under David Moyes were not known for their passing style, although they did produce some very good football in the Scot’s last season in charge at Goodison Park. Martinez’s style seems to have been accepted very quickly by the Everton players.
The deadline day additions of James McCarthy and Gareth Barry were key to the style of play that the Spaniard wanted his team to play. I do not think that many people would argue that Everton are better to watch under Martinez than they were under Moyes, which is a real positive for the Toffees.
Everton’s home record in the Premier League is very impressive. The Toffee’s have lost just once in the last 26 games at Goodison Park in the top-flight. The only team to defeat Everton in that time was Chelsea, who survived the home side hitting the woodwork on two occasions in that clash.
It is fair to say that the grand old lady is one of the hardest grounds in the leagues for opposition teams to win at. Chelsea have already been beaten at Goodison, while Tottenham could only draw on the Toffees home soil.
Liverpool’s front two of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge present a real threat to that solid home record. The Reds front two have been in fantastic goal scoring form this season, scoring 16 between them in the Premier League.
They have formed a strike-partnership that is rated amongst the best in the English top-flight, although Sturridge has failed to find the net in his last two appearances for the Reds and England’s friendly defeat against Germany on Tuesday night.
Suarez scored a brace against Goodison Park last season and also had a stoppage-time goal ruled out wrongly for offside. The Uruguayan will certainly be a danger to the Toffees backline, as will Sturridge.
Evertonians concerns about their team collapsing defensively with Martinez in charge have rather been dispelled. The Toffees have kept three consecutive clean sheets and have only conceded ten goals this season, the same amount as their arch-rivals and league leaders Arsenal.
The game could hinge on who wins that particular battle. Something has to give as the Reds are very dangerous going forward and Everton are looking more solid in defence.
Most Merseyside derbies are rough and ready, but I get the feeling that this game may be a bit more refined than previous encounters in recent years. Both teams have started their campaigns in good style and Saturday’s encounter promises to be a tight encounter.
The visitors are narrow favourites to claim victory at odds of 8/5, while Everton are 15/8. The draw looks a good bet at 12/5. Both teams are in decent form and these two teams should be relatively well matched.
Anything can happen in derby matches, but with Everton’s home record I definitely would not be rushing out to back the Reds for victory in this clash, despite their fantastic start to the season.
Who will come out on top in Saturday’s Merseyside derby?