Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool side are currently on course for a top four finish this season after a valiant start to this seasons campaign. The red half of Merseyside currently lye second in the Premier League, and the battle for fourth is one Liverpool seem ready to fight for.
This weekend brings another four for the L4 club; the amount of minutes that it takes to travel by car from Anfield to Goodison Park, as they journey to face fierce rivals Everton at mid-day on Saturday.
Liverpool come into the game with high spirits, having strolled past Fulham 4-0 in their last outing before the international break. This however does not take away the fact that the previous game they where dominated by an Arsenal side by being totally over-run in midfield.
When Rodgers’ became manager at the start of last season, Liverpool where considered by many as a work in progress. This is something that can be also applied to Saturday’s opponents.
Roberto Martinez’s introduction to life at Goodison Park has so far been mostly of joy. His side has only lost twice this season, one of which was in the league. The former Wigan boss, who turned down a chance to manage Liverpool before they appointed Rodgers, has seen his side perform impressively at home this season. The Toffee’s have managed to claim a victory against Chelsea and also gain a point against Tottenham respectively.
Martinez has started to apply his stamp to the Blues already as Everton seem happier to keep possession of the ball this season. One of the reasons of this is due to new signing Gareth Barry. The deep-lying central midfielder has been an ever-present figure so far this year since his switch from Manchester City in the summer.
Barry has linked well with his new teammates, knowing his role in the side and dropping back into the centre of defence, this allows fullbacks Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman to push on in attack. The movement from Barry has allowed him to become available to his team and an outlet they can use when trying to hold onto the ball.
Frailties at the back for Everton can be found with Kevin Mirallas however. The Belgian winger seems to leave a hole at the back when Everton play at times, often failing to track back to help once his fullback has overlapped, Liverpool will look to exploit this.
Rodgers’ will want his side to compete with a higher level of consistency, something he wasn’t able to achieve all that often last season. He will be aware of how his team performed following an international break last time around, with a substandard performance in the 2-2 draw to Newcastle earlier in the season.
The midfield trio of Jordan Henderson, Steven Gerrard and Lucas were untypically quiet against Arsenal at the Emirates earlier this month. Arsenal placed an extra man in midfield and this left the three looking lost, never really getting going throughout the match. If Everton select youngster Ross Barkley ahead of Leon Osman, his drive and power could help their cause.
Liverpool will have to use the prowess of the SAS attack to break down the Everton defensive line if they are to get on the score sheet on Saturday. Daniel Sturridge has been made to look indistinctively average recently against Germany and Arsenal. This was mainly down to the presence of Per Mertersacker, who stuck to Sturridge like glue and didn’t give the striker a moments rest. Everton will hope the duo of Phil Jagielka and Sylvan Distin will be able to do much of the same.
A victory for Liverpool will see the Red’s climb to the top of the table, albeit for a few hours at least, as Arsenal take on third place Southampton in a crucial game at the top of the table at 3pm. A result would seemingly add more pressure to Arsenal in that fixture, as well as provide much needed inspiration for Mauricio Pochetinho’s Saints quest towards the top.
For Everton a victory would put them joint level on points with rivals Liverpool. A win would mark the continuing battle for Roberto Martinez in this transitional period since taking over the club. There is no better way Martinez can warm himself to the Evertonian faithful than a victory in the derby.