Liverpool will hope to keep pace with Chelsea and Manchester City atop the Premier League when they take on Everton at Goodison Park on Wednesday.
Gameweek 14 of the 2021/22 Premier League season gets underway on Tuesday, just two days after the previous round of fixtures culminated. On Wednesday, six games are scheduled, with the marquee fixture being the Merseyside derby. Everton and Liverpool will go head-to-head at Goodison Park, with both teams in contrasting runs heading into the big game this week.
Everton’s form has withered away following a strong start to life under Rafael Benitez. The Toffees had held Manchester United to a morale-boosting 1-1 draw at the beginning of October. However, in the two months since, they have failed to win their six subsequent fixtures, losing five of them, including a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Brentford this past weekend.
On the other hand, Liverpool are flying high at the onset of the 2021/22 season, having lost just one game in all competitions thus far. Oddly enough, though, the Reds have dropped points in five of their 13 Premier League games this term, which has left them two points adrift of Chelsea. However, a 4-0 rout of Southampton last week is sure to have bolstered the visitors ahead of the derby.
The corresponding fixture last season ended in a 2-2 draw between Everton and Liverpool in what was the start of the then-defending champions’ downward spiral in a forgettable campaign. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Rafael Benitez has been handed a major boost on the team news front ahead of the visit of Liverpool. On Wednesday, the Everton manager will only be bereft of the services of five first-team players due to injuries or suspension.
The good news comes in the form of Richarlison’s return, with the Brazilian back at Benitez’s disposal after serving a one-match ban against Brentford on the weekend. However, Mason Holgate remains on the sidelines, with the Liverpool game being the third of his three-match suspension.
In addition, Yerry Mina (hamstring), Tom Davies (knee) and Dominic Calvert-Lewin (thigh) are still unavailable due to their respective injuries. However, in his pre-match press conference, Benitez has confirmed that Andre Gomes has resumed training after recovering from his injury, although the game might have come too soon for him.
In Gomes’s continued absence, Abdoulaye Doucuore and Allan pick themselves in the double pivot. The duo will aim to improve following a sub-par showing against Brentford. Andros Townsend was abysmal in the same game and will hope to step up better in his maiden Merseyside derby.
However, Alex Iwobi and Salomon Rondon will not get a chance to make amends, with Richarlison and Demarai Gray set to return to the Everton attacking unit against Liverpool. The former Liverpool boss will hand last spot in the final third to Anthony Gordon, who continues to show promising signs for the Toffees.
There is unlikely to be any change at the back, with Ben Godfrey and Michael Keane forming the central defensive partnership, while Lucas Digne and Seamus Coleman will be the two full-backs. Finally, in goal, Jordan Pickford, the pantomime villain for Liverpool fans after the corresponding fixture last season, is an automatic pick for Benitez.
Unlike his counterpart in the Everton dugout, Jurgen Klopp will not be greeting the return of a star ahead of the Merseyside derby. However, the Liverpool boss does not have a fresh injury concern hampering his preparations ahead of the short trip to Goodison Park, with five first-team players still on the sidelines.
Naby Keita (hamstring), Joe Gomez (muscle injury) and Roberto Firmino (hamstring) are inching closer to their respective returns and will be up for selection within the next two weeks. However, the same cannot be said of Curtis Jones (eye) and Harvey Elliott (ankle), leaving Klopp short-changed in the middle of the park.
However, James Milner’s return has been timely, and the Liverpool vice-captain should be back in the side, thereby affording a bit of a rest to Thiago Alcantara after some of his excursions in the past week. Milner will line up alongside Fabinho and Henderson in the midfield trifecta, with the trio providing a solid base in the middle of the park.
Up ahead in the attacking unit, Klopp is unlikely to make any major alterations despite the expectation to do so sooner or later. So, Diogo Jota will lead the line for Liverpool against Everton, with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane being the two wide men.
The defensive line could see one change, with Joel Matip replacing Ibrahima Konate at the heart of the Liverpool backline. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson will continue as the two marauding full-backs, with Alisson Becker a certainty between the sticks.
Everton’s 2-0 triumph in February ended a run of 20 Premier League games without a win versus Liverpool.
The Toffees could win back-to-back league derbies for the first time since 1985. However, the Reds have not lost a Premier League match at Goodison Park in 11 years, although eight of their last nine visits have finished level, including the last four.
Everton are winless in seven Premier League games, their longest such sequence since April 2016 under Roberto Martinez. The Toffees have scored four goals and conceded 13 during that run. Their tally of two points from those seven fixtures is the lowest of any Premier League team.
Liverpool are just the second team in Football League history to score at least twice in 17 consecutive matches in all competitions, emulating Sunderland in 1927. The Reds have scored 39 league goals this season, their highest-ever total at this stage of a top-flight campaign.
Rafael Benítez has won just one of his 10 Premier League meetings against his former teams, beating Chelsea 3-0 with Newcastle United in May 2018.
Mohamed Salah’s 19 direct goal involvements (11 goals and eight assists) are the most of any player in the top five European leagues. On Wednesday, Salah could become the first Liverpool player to score or assist a goal in seven successive Premier League away games.
Player to Watch
Virgil van Dijk
If there is one player who will have vivid memories of the corresponding fixture last season. In that game, the Dutchman suffered an injury that kept him out of action for the remainder of the season. In turn, it also derailed the Reds’ campaign, with their Premier League title defence fizzling out quite quickly.
Now, though, van Dijk has the opportunity to influence a big result against local rival Everton and perhaps even score a goal past Jordan Pickford to boot. Most importantly, Liverpool’s defensive leader will be eager to ensure Alisson Becker keeps a clean sheet in what will be one of the most satisfactory outcomes of the season for him.