Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Prediction: Everton vs Liverpool

Verdict: Total goals over 2.5

Best odds: 8/13

Bookmaker: Betfair

Everton and Liverpool are set to cross swords at Goodison Park on Wednesday evening in the first Premier League Merseyside Derby of the season. It’ll be the 14th league match of the season for both teams.

Everton

There’s been plenty of excitement throughout the Blue side of the city on the river Mersey in the last couple of years. Big investments have been announced, not least the construction of a brand-new 52,000-seat stadium on Bramley Moore Docks, and when the club appointed Carlo Ancelotti as their manager in the summer of 2020, the atmosphere surrounding the club went through the roof. However, having led the team to no more than a 10th place finish last term, the experienced Italian tactician jumped at the chance to return to Real Madrid.

The Toffees appointed Rafa Benitez in his place. The Spaniard, of course, led Liverpool for six years and was at the heart of the Reds’ Champions League glory in 2005, and not everyone among the Blue supporters accepted his arrival without grief; there were even threats against him.

And as things stand, it seems that those who doubted Benitez would prove the right man for the job had a point. Everton are currently in 14th place with 15 points, just six above Burnley in the relegation zone, with Southampton (14), Watford (13) and Leeds United (12) squeezed in between. Their involvement in the Carabao Cup ended on September 21st, when they were knocked out by Championship side Queens Park Rangers on penalties.

Therefore, all of Everton’s last six matches were within the league. They lost at home to West Ham by 0-1, then to Watford, also at home, by 2-5, then 2-1 away to Wolverhampton Wanderers, scraped a goalless draw at home against Tottenham Hotspur, got a 3-0 thrashing away to Manchester City, and eventually lost 1-0 away to Brentford a couple of days ago.

Naturally, such an underwhelming (to put it mildly) string of results has put Benitez under great pressure, and it’s fairly certain he doesn’t fancy facing his old club in such circumstances.

Team News

Forward Richarlison, who was sent off in this fixture last term for a particularly nasty tackle on Thiago Alcantara, is now back from another suspension, but defender Mason Holgate, who has a history of malice towards Roberto Firmino, is serving the third match of his own suspension after receiving a straight red card against Spurs.

Striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin (fractured toe), defender Yerry Mina (hamstring), and midfielders Tom Davies (knee) and Andre Gomes (calf) are out.

Richarlison will likely slot straight back into the starting XI in the place of Salomon Rondon upfront. Andros Townsend is set to offer support from one flank with either Anthony Gordon or Demarai Gray on the other. Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure are to continue as the double pivot, ahead of the back line formed by Michael Keane, Ben Godfrey, captain Seamus Coleman, and Lucas Digne. England international Jordan Pickford, who was unbelievably lucky to escape a red card for his season-ending injury of Virgil van Dijk in October last year, will again be between the posts.

Liverpool

The Reds are in a completely different situation at the moment. They’ve built fantastic momentum, and as captain Jordan Henderson said in a recent interview, it’s all about maintaining it right now. They had a few bumps on the road recently, but judging by their performances in the last three matches, all played within a week, it seems they’ve completely overcome them after this month’s international break.

Jurgen Klopp’s team played a 2-2 draw at home against Brighton and Hove Albion, then beat Atletico Madrid at home by 2-0 in the Champions League, suffered their only defeat of the season in any competition so far away to West Ham by 3-2, responded by annihilating Arsenal at home by 4-0, beat FC Porto 2-0 at home, and thrashed Southampton 4-0 on Saturday, also at home.

As for the Premier League, the Reds are currently in third place with a two-point deficit to leaders Chelsea, and one behind second-place Manchester City. There’s a five-point gap behind them, over which they’re looking at West Ham in fourth.

Having been drawn in the group labeled ‘the group of death’ in the Champions League, Liverpool won all of the five matches they’ve played so far, with only the clash against AC Milan in Italy remaining, and they secured the top spot along with a place in the round of 16 a while back.

After what happened at Goodison last year, this match will naturally hold a kind of hot anticipation for Klopp’s men, on top of it being the city derby. As has been said, Pickford and Richarlison delivered serious injuries to Van Dijk and Thiago, respectively. However, Klopp has made it perfectly clear his team are going across Stanley Park to play football, and no other reason.

Team News

Liverpool have no fresh injury concerns ahead of this match. They’ll still be without Firmino (hamstring), midfielders Naby Keita (hamstring) Harvey Elliott (ankle) and Curtis Jones (eye), as well as defender Joe Gomez (calf).

Alisson Becker is fairly certain to start between the posts, as are Van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold in the back line. The other two names in defence aren’t as certain – Andy Robertson and Joel Matip seem the obvious choices, but Kostas Tsimikas and Ibrahima Konate will be hoping to be named as well. Fabinho, Henderson and Thiago should form the midfield trio, though Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could be given another shot. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane are set to attack the Toffees from the flanks, with Diogo Jota set in between.

Conclusion

Given what we’ve seen from these two teams in the last couple of weeks, it would seem there could only be one winner. Liverpool truly have greater quality in their ranks, by a wide margin at that, as well as a system that actually works and produces results. Despite the fact that derbies are rarely that straightforward, this one really should be. Apart from that, there should be plenty of goals too.

Verdict: Total goals over 2.5

Best odds: 8/13

Bookmaker: Betfair

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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