Liverpool v Everton : Merseyside Derby Match Preview
Liverpool host Merseyside rivals Everton on Tuesday night in the Premier League at Anfield in a mouth-watering clash with more than local pride at stake, as both sets of clubs are embroiled in a vicious battle for Champions League football.
Reds boss Brendan Rodgers is expected to recall in-form winger Raheem Sterling and Belgian keeper Simon Mignolet after both started on the bench at Bournemouth in the FA Cup.
Lucas (knee), Jose Enrique (knee) and Agger (calf) all remain sidelined. Joe Allen could be back after sitting out the trip to the south coast. It remains to be seen if Mamadou Sakho will be deemed match-fit.
Everton winger Bryan Oviedo suffered a double fracture of his left leg against Stevenage in the FA Cup and will be unavailable for a lengthy duration.
The Toffees squad could include new-signing Lacina Traore, who joined Roberto Martinez's side on loan from Monaco. The Spanish manager will also check on the fitness of Seamus Coleman, who missed the Stevenage game with a minor soft tissue injury), and Steven Pienaar (groin), Antolin Alcaraz (muscle fatigue) and Gerard Deulofeu (hamstring) could come into contention. Ross Barkley (broken toe), Darron Gibson and Arouna Kone (both knee) are definitely out.
Liverpool's main ambition at the start of the season was to secure fourth spot in order to compete in next season's UEFA Champions League. The Reds are on course to beat Tottenham, Manchester United and their fierce city rivals who they face on Tuesday night. However, Rodgers is not satisfied, and believes his side can challenge for the title. The Reds may be eight points off pace-setters Arsenal, but the idea is not by any means far-fetched, as it is based on the fact that all the other sides in the top six are yet to visit Anfield, whilst Liverpool have already played them all away.
The 18-time league champions have made Anfield a fortress this season, losing only to Southampton is September. However, they will have to make their lacklustre 2-2 draw with Aston Villa a one-off if the Premier League title is to be a realistic aim.
Their rivals across Stanley Park will provide Rodgers's side with a stern test, with the trip to Anfield holding no fear for Martinez : "We are capable of going anywhere and beating any team" he said.
"What we will need to do on Tuesday night is a combination of those two games"
Martinez's evident lack of fear is what was seen the Toffees, who are unbeaten in six matches, challenging to compete in club football's elite competition. His side possess an impressive record away to the other teams in the top seven, worrying Man City at the Etihad, beating Man United at Old Trafford for the first team in 21 years and sealing a draw with Arsenal at the Emirates, a record which will be enough to alarm Rodgers.
The Spaniard will also be eager to end Everton's run of not being able to win in the last seven derbies, a run stretching back to October 2010.
A win for Everton would see the them leapfrog Liverpool into the coveted fourth spot for atleast 24 hours with Tottenham to welcome Manchester City to White Hart Lane on Wednesday night. The Toffees dropped down to sixth after their draw with West Brom last Monday, a game in which a win would have seen them reclaim fourth place in the Premier League standings.
The fact that Everton are embroiled in the vicious battle for Champions League football, a battle being fought between themselves, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United, combined with the fact that they have only lost twice this season (at the Etihad and home to Sunderland), shows the huge improvement the Toffees have made under Martinez's stewardship. However, Tuesday night and their next few tricky fixtures will show if they are truly made out of Champions League material.
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