Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 9/10
The international break is over and the Premier League roller coaster is ready to continue this weekend. Round five is up, and it’s set to start with the Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park when Everton host neighbours Liverpool on Saturday.
It’s been a while since we last saw the Toffees play as consistently as they have been doing since the start of the season. At the moment, they top the Premier League table with a maximum of 12 points from their opening four games. Tottenham Hotspur, West Bromwich Albion, Crystal Palace and Brighton and Hove Albion have all been beaten by the excellent team under the command of Carlo Ancelotti. Quite apart from the obvious league success, they’ve also secured a place in the Carabao Cup quarterfinals, where they will face Manchester United on December 22nd.
Everton have done some good transfer business this summer, acquiring the services of midfielders James Rodriguez from Real Madrid, Allan from Napoli and Abdoulaye Doucoure from Watford. All three players have done extremely well in the Blue shirt so far, and it can be said that the good form forwards Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison have shown is a good reflection of the service they’ve been getting from the middle of the park. Defender Ben Godfrey has also arrived from Norwich City to boost the back line, as well as goalkeeper Robin Olsen on loan from AS Roma to provide some competition for England number one Jordan Pickford between the posts.
Allan, together with fellow midfielder Andre Gomes and captain Seamus Coleman, recently had some minor fitness issues, but all three are expected to be fit for Saturday.
Having won the Premier League for the first time in 30 years, Liverpool started the 2020/21 campaign well enough, winning their opening three matches – against Leeds United, Chelsea and Arsenal. The Gunners, however, got their revenge by knocking them out of the Carabao Cup with a win on penalties at Anfield, just before Aston Villa shockingly inflicted them with a 7-2 defeat in the fourth league round. It’ll now all be about the way Jurgen Klopp’s team respond to that heavy disappointment.
Liverpool now sit in fifth place with nine points, the same as Villa, Leicester City and Arsenal in second, third and fourth, respectively, though Villa have a game in hand over all the other teams mentioned.
Like Everton, Liverpool did some shrewd business over the summer. They first provided cover for left-back Andy Robertson by signing Kostas Tsimikas from Olympiacos, before really getting down to it and bringing in midfielder Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich and forward Diogo Jota from Wolverhampton Wanderers. Thiago has so far played only 45 minutes in the win over Chelsea and has already proven himself capable of a top-level performance in the Premier League. Jota got his fist league goal for Liverpool against Arsenal and has also shown that he’ll fit in well.
The main concern for Liverpool remains the goalkeeper position at the moment, with Alisson Becker out with a shoulder injury. It means that the manager has no choice but to put Adrian between the posts at Goodison, even though the Spaniard hasn’t really sparked confidence with his performances when called upon lately.
On the other hand, Klopp will be thrilled about having Sadio Mane and Thiago back in the team after the pair went through a self-isolation period due to testing positive for Covid-19. They are both fine now and have been cleared to play. Captain Jordan Henderson is also back after injury issues, as is defender Joel Matip. Klopp might be tempted to put the Cameroonian centre-back in next to Virgil van Dijk straight away, given that Joe Gomez didn’t do very well in the defeat to Aston Villa.
Midfielder Naby Keita also tested positive for Covid-19 on international duty, as did winger Xherdan Shaqiri. But while the result of Keita’s second test hasn’t yet been announced, Shaqiri’s was reportedly negative and the Swiss international will be ready to play.
With Jota on fine form, some may be expecting Klopp to place Roberto Firmino on the bench, but the Brazilian exploded into form on international duty himself and it’s not very likely the German tactician will want to start an important match like this without the man who often makes his machine run smoothly.
Merseyside Derbies played at Goodison have been rather dull affairs in recent years, with only three goals scored in the last six. Four of them ended goalless. However, there is a genuine feeling that things could turn out differently this time. Everton’s resurgence under Ancelotti is bound to give the Blues confidence, as will Liverpool’s result at Villa Park, and confidence can make a lot of difference on the pitch.
Nonetheless, Liverpool remain the favourites to win. The international break is likely to prove exactly what they needed after the shock, and having the likes of Mane, Thiago, Henderson and Matip back will also make a big difference. Anything is possible, but this team of Klopp’s has always reacted strongly to disappointments, and they are likely to do so again.
Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 9/10
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