12:30 BST, Saturday 7th April, Goodison Park (Liverpool, England) Sky Sports
Sam Allardyce is yet convince Everton fans he’s the right choice to lead the club forward, however, a first win in 17 derbies for the Toffees could help swing opinion in his favour. Having claimed a battling 1-1 draw in his second league match in charge of Everton last December, his record for upsetting the “bigger” teams he’s faced will need to come to the fore once more.
With Liverpool missing key players for this clash while in the midst of a two-legged battle in Europe, it could prove an ideal time for Allardyce to exploit them. Jürgen Klopp’s side will be high-spirited following their impressive win over Manchester City, however, they almost came stuck against a resilient Palace side last weekend. Without the goals of Salah to elevate them on Saturday, Liverpool’s team ethos will be as important as ever in the face of what’s likely to be a stubbornly unadventurous Everton side.
Last Time Out
Everton 1-3 Manchester City (Premier League)
The Toffees were torn apart in the first half to end this game as a contest by half-time. Without their best defensive midfielders through injury, Everton were left exposed to a Manchester City side who happily took advantage of that weakness.
If Allardyce had harboured any plans to have his side frustrate City by defending robustly, any such hopes were shattered in only the fourth minute by Leroy Sané. While Jordan Pickford did not make a save during the first 45 minutes, he was given little chance as City worked themselves three glorious chances which were clinically dispatched.
While Yannick Bolasie claimed a consolation goal in the 63rd minute, it was not enough to paper over the cracks of a poor display in the eyes of the Everton fans. A lack of energy and aggression from the Toffees coupled with a gameplan that involved launching the ball upfield at the quickest opportunity possible from anywhere and everywhere on the pitch was not what they wanted to see. The fact Everton were hugely outclassed added more salt to an already deep cut.
Liverpool 3-0 Manchester City (Champions League)
The Reds delivered a huge performance to put one foot firmly into the semi-finals and send a strong message reverberating around Europe. The atmosphere before and during the match made headlines, however, it was the explosive opening to the game which commanded the bulk of column space after the game.
With all three goals coming within the opening half an hour, Liverpool’s pressing paid off handsomely as they capitalised on mistakes forced on the City players. Despite Pep Guardiola fielding four midfielders to try to out-pass the Liverpool press, the energy expended by Liverpool ensured that they came out on top.
Trent Alexander-Arnold was given a thorough inspection as most of Manchester City’s attacks flowing through their left flank but like his teammates, the young right-back excelled on the night. As part of a defence which kept a clean sheet which could prove massively beneficial in the return leg, this was a professional performance by the Reds who deserved the impressive scoreline against a team who were expecting to progress further in this competition.
Mason Holgate (ankle) Eliaquim Mangala (knee) James McCarthy (leg) Gylfi Sigurdsson (knee) and Idrissa Gueye (muscular) all miss out again for the Toffees although Ashley Williams could return having served his suspension for the red card picked up against Burnley. Allardyce is unlikely to want to change the defence which has seen improvements recently prior to facing Manchester City.
Klopp’s rotation-heavy policy is likely to come into play this weekend given the number of games they have coming up. Injuries to Joe Gomez (ankle) Joel Matip (thigh) and Adam Lallana (thigh) remain for Klopp while both Emre Can (back) and Mohamed Salah (groin) are likely to be rested ahead of the coming games. This could see either Dominic Solanke or Danny Ings make a rare start in attack for the Reds while Georginio Wijnaldum should get the nod in midfield.
Key Battle: Tom Davies (Everton) vs Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool)
Capable of playing in a deep-midfield role or as a more creative player further upfield as he has been of late, Tom Davies will surely start for Everton this weekend. Having provided some much-needed determination into the team last weekend when he replaced Wayne Rooney for the last 35 minutes, he was a major reason the Toffees enjoyed a better second half compared to their first. With Liverpool’s midfield potentially missing some of their creative players, this could be the perfect match for him to impress on a big stage this season after a series of impressive displays in the previous campaign.
With some changes expected in the Liverpool ranks for this Saturday’s early kick-off, Wijnaldum is one player widely expected to profit with an increasingly rare start. The former Newcastle winger may not be the most creative midfield player in Liverpool’s squad, but he offers a remarkable work ethic which helps him fit into the gegenpressing demands of his manager. With a question-mark hanging over his ability to perform away from home, hopefully for Liverpool, the short trip to Goodison Park can coax a good display from him and possibly an important goal which he has a penchant for producing.
Liverpool may have caught the headlines regarding the fees paid by Premier League clubs over the last two transfer windows, but their table-topping spend on agents was only the tip of the iceberg. With total fees rising by £37 million to £211 million across all 20 Premier League sides during this period, almost every club has seen this expenditure significantly increase.
For Everton, however, one particular transaction stands conspicuously in the limelight. The January transfer of Ross Barkley to Chelsea for £15m - a fee agreed for less than half of the £35m previously agreed in the summer - included a £7m fee paid to the player's agent.
While it was Chelsea who picked up the tab for this bill, this amount is more than the total agent fees paid by seven of the other Premier League clubs. With Liverpool mayor, Joe Anderson, controversially claiming at the time for a fraud investigation to be carried out in relation to the transfer, perhaps he was closer to the truth than he then realised.
Striking a balance
With a run of important matches looming into view, Klopp will have to carefully pick his next few team selections. Having lost Lallana, Matip and Can within little more than a week, added to a niggling strain which Salah seems to have succumbed to, his squad options have become restricted at this vital stage of the season.
With Danny Ings potentially making his first start for two years, Klopp will also have Dominic Solanke, Ben Woodburn, Alberto Moreno and now Nathaniel Clyne in contention to make starts. The Liverpool boss will have to slowly integrate these players lacking match sharpness into his plans. Having received plenty of criticism for the number of rotational changes he applied to his team earlier this season, the same policy could well help Liverpool negotiate this upcoming run of games.
Prediction: Everton 1-2 Liverpool
With 40 points already on the Premier league board and safety assured, this examination for Everton could have major repercussions behind the scenes. A home win seems like an unlikely outcome, but Liverpool will find it hard to replicate the standards they displayed last Wednesday in this fixture. They should have enough to dispatch an inconsistent Everton team who could slip further away from the chance of Europa League football with defeat on Saturday.