Tuesday, Jan 28 at 3:00 (EST), the two Merseyside clubs, Liverpool FC and Everton FC, clash heads again at Anfield. It is the second half of the season, and this time around the stakes of the derby are even higher. With the Reds on fourth place and the Toffees on sixth, only one point separates them. The winner of today’s game does not only get bragging rights but also takes a significant step towards the coveted top four that promises European soccer.
Last time the two teams met was at Goodison Park in 2013 on November 23rd where a hard fought game resulted in 3-3 after goals from Liverpool players Philippe Coutinho, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. The talking point of the match became several poor challenges that went unpunished by referee Phil Dowd, especially Kevin Mirallas’ rash tackle on Suarez which only earned him a yellow card.
In his pre-game interview, Brendan Rodgers discussed topics ranging from injuries to transfer activity and the game ahead. With Lucas Levia, Daniel Agger, Jose Enrique and Mamadou Sakho all injured and unavailable, Rodgers has a very small pool of players to choose from. While assessing that one or two players could return for today’s game, one of them being midfielder Joe Allen, the manager wouldn’t want to risk anymore injuries. Instead he is going to have to count on irregular starters such as Iago Aspas, Victor Moses and Martin Kelly, along with youngsters Jon Flanagan and Luis Alberto.
Liverpool is not the only team to pick up a bad string of injuries. Everton manager, Roberto Martinez, has stated that Seamus Coleman won’t be playing and that Sylvain Distin is doubtful. Injuries aside, both teams will without a doubt be displaying their very strongest XIs. In the mix for a shot at Champions League soccer is also Tottenham who, nudged in between Liverpool and Everton, will fight just as hard in their upcoming game against Manchester City. Any drop of points for Liverpool will diminish their chances at hanging on at the top.
Both managers have insisted that they are going into the game with good confidence. Liverpool won their latest FA Cup game against the Championship team Bournemouth, and in the Premier League their last three games have offered one draw and two victories. Everton has done almost just as well, eliminating Stevenage from the FA Cup and drawing two games of their last three in the Premier League and winning one.
The Reds will have the advantage of home field, yet against rivals Everton anything can happen. If Liverpool is going to secure the three points, it will come down to three things: if Joe Allen is fit enough to aid Gerrard and Henderson in the midfield where plenty of possession is going to be needed, if the defense can contain Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku, and finally if the top scorer of the league, Luis Suarez, can work his magic. The latter is almost guaranteed.
With the opportunity of Champions League closer than it has been for a very long time, Liverpool simply cannot afford to lose this game. The question is whether they will seize the chance and show that they are worthy of top level soccer or whether they will end up falling flat, being resigned to yet another season of disappointment.