By Ian Palmer
The Merseyside Derby takes over Liverpool on Saturday, Feb. 7 as the city’s two English Premier League teams meet at Goodison Park where Everton will be hosting Liverpool. The two sides currently appear to be heading in different directions as Liverpool have pulled their socks up lately after a rough start and Everton is still struggling. The news is even brighter for the Reds as English international striker Daniel Sturridge has returned to the lineup after sitting out since August with a long-term leg injury.
Liverpool enters the match in seventh place in the Premier League with 38 points after 23 matches from 11 wins, five draws and seven losses with 33 goals for and 27 against. They’re unbeaten in their past 10 games in all competitions and are coming off of a come-from behind 2-1 win in Bolton in an FA Cup fourth-round replay on Wednesday. Their last league outing was a 2-0 win over West Ham United last Saturday.
Everton is in 12th place with six victories, eight draws and nine defeats for 26 points with 31 goals for and 34 against. However, they’re just seven points ahead of 18th place and the relegation zone. The team has won just two of their past 10 matches in all competitions, but are actually unbeaten in the past five with four draws and a win. Their last league encounter was a 1-0 triumph in London over Crystal Palace last week. Everton recently lost striker Samuel Eto’o in the January transfer window, but replaced him by signing Aaron Lennon on loan for the rest of the season from fellow Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur.
bet365 lists Everton at 9/4 to take the game with Liverpool 5/4 and a draw at 12/5.
The current form of these two teams doesn’t usually matter though when they get together for the derby as anything can happen. Liverpool police attempted to have the kickoff for this match held about five hours earlier for public safety reasons, but the appeal was turned down so it will be kicking off at 5:30 pm local time. Liverpool’s title hopes have been dashed this season after finishing as runners-up last year, but they’re still aiming for a top-four finish and a berth in the 2015/16 European Champions League competition.
With Everton’s defense ranking as the league’s fourth-worst, Liverpool should take an attacking approach to this match by starting Sturridge and Raheem Sterling. However, knowing manager Brendan Rodgers and his conservative approach to the game there’s a good chance Sturridge starts on the bench. Everton’s main scoring threat is Belgian international striker Romelu Lukaku and if manager Roberto Martinez has any sense he’ll start the newly-acquired Lennon up front with him. Lukaku has been disappointing this campaign, but his seven goals still leads the team.
Liverpool’s defense has tightened up recently and they’ve recorded three straight clean sheets in league play. When you add in the fact that Everton has scored a grand total f four goals in their past seven league contests it doesn’t look good for the home team. However, they’ve posted a pair of clean sheets in their past two matches. This is the longest-running top-tier derby in English soccer and the teams played to a 1-1 draw earlier in the season at Anfield. The two sides have met 223 times in all competitive competitions over the years with Liverpool leading the series 89 to 66 with the other 68 games ending in draws.