While there is plenty of pride at stake in the 233rd edition of the Merseyside derby as Liverpool seek their second double over Everton in three seasons, the Reds’ eyes are on bigger things than city dominance and bragging rights – they need these three points to stay atop the Premier League table.
Liverpool (21-6-1), for all intents and purposes, got lucky in winning 1-0 at Anfield in the reverse fixture Dec. 2. Deep in second-half stoppage time, defender Virgil Van Dijk mishit a volley, popping it towards the Everton goal. The ball carried to the end line, where Toffees keeper Jordan Pickford inexplicably tried to bat it behind him for a corner but inadvertently kept it in play as it bounced on top of the crossbar.
Divock Origi, watching the ball intently, was first to it as it fell in front of the goal and beat Pickford to bundle it home right before the final whistle as Liverpool extended their unbeaten streak in the Merseyside derby to 18 matches (9-9-0) in all competitions since a 2-0 defeat Oct. 17, 2010. It was such a stunning goal that Klopp raced onto the pitch to chest-bump his keeper Alisson, an action that warranted an £8,000 fine from the FA.
Klopp – who is 5-2-0 versus Everton since arriving in Liverpool in 2015 – understands all the emotions that come with the derby. At the same time, the win over Everton – as wonderful as that may be – carries the importance of staying at least one point ahead of Manchester City for the league lead as the two are expected to weigh a titanic battle over the final two-plus months.
“In these games, I know we are the tip of the arrow, the ones who have to do it for the people. They cannot win in the office, these games. We have to do it on the pitch,” Klopp said at his Friday news conference. “That is what we have to try. We all understand it 100 per cent.
“It’s true (we got momentum) from Divock’s goal in December, It changed the mood, the confidence, it was very important. It’s true (we got momentum) from Divock’s goal in December, It changed the mood, the confidence, it was very important.”
Liverpool’s mood making the short trip across Stanley Park is a good one after smashing Watford 5-0 mid-week. Sadio Mane picked up the slack for an injured Roberto Firmino with a first-half brace, and Van Dijk got into the act with his own brace in the final 11 minutes. Klopp’s wide backs were also influential as Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson assisted on all the goals, with right back Alexander-Arnold notching three and Robertson the other two.
“That game was exceptional; I don’t think I was ever part of a game that somebody had a hat-trick of assists,” Klopp said. “It was special. He wanted the match ball so he got it. It was really cool. Now let’s try to do something like that again.”
Mane has six goals in his last six league games, finding the back of the net in all but one of them. With Mohamed Salah still sitting on 49 Premier League goals, the Senegal international has become the man of the moment in Liverpool’s attack – more so with Firmino a late worry to miss a second straight match with an ankle injury. Firmino did train with the team late this week, and it is possible he could start this contest on the bench.
While Mane has hit a purple patch of goals, Van Dijk has been a colossus in defence in his first three matches in this derby. Liverpool have gone 2-1-0 with the Netherlands international on the pitch, conceding just one goal. Van Dijk scored the winner in last year’s FA Cup win in his Liverpool debut before his scuffed shot led to the chaos of Origi’s last-gasp winner in December.
There is little argument the deflating nature of the loss – which extended Everton’s winless run at Anfield to 21 matches – threw the Toffees (10-6-12) for a loop. They took five points from the subsequent seven matches (1-2-4) and never truly ignited for anything beyond their expected mid-table landing spot come May.
Everton are ninth in the table entering this match but picked up some needed momentum ahead of hosting their eternal rivals with a thorough 3-0 thrashing of Cardiff City on the road Tuesday that snapped a three-game losing streak.
Gylfi Sigurdsson marked his first match in Wales since his £45 million move from Swansea City to the Toffees in 2017 with goals on either side of halftime before Dominic Calvert-Lewin fattened the scoreline in stoppage time. Sigurdsson has 57 Premier League goals and moved ahead of former Chelsea striker Eidur Gudjohnsen for the most goals buy an Icelander in the top flight.
“This is the match you really look forward to at the start of the season,” Sigurdsson told Everton’s official website ahead of the derby as he looks to add to his team-leading haul of 12 goals in all competitions. “It will be a fantastic game and hopefully we can put in a good performance, get a good result and (if we do) things are looking good.
“As soon as we scored against Cardiff, we kind of took control of the game. After scoring that second goal, you could see us playing better football, with better movement and a bit more freedom. I thought we really enjoyed the second half. The fans will be over the moon if we get a good result on Sunday. And in this league, if you put a proper run of results together, you climb the table quite quickly.
“That is what we are trying to do.”
Sigurdsson’s lone goal in three derby appearances came in last season’s FA Cup loss.
Richarlison is second with 11 goals but went scoreless in four February matches. The Brasil international has yet to score against Liverpool in three career matches and was the target of physical play at Anfield in December when he drew six fouls. All told, there were seven yellow cards issued by Chris Kavanagh but no one added to the record 21 red cards given in this derby.
Martin Atkinson will oversee his fourth Merseyside derby match. He issued a straight red card in the 2011 edition at Goodison Park to Everton midfielder Jack Rodwell for his tackle on Luis Suarez. Liverpool eventually won 2-0 on second-half goals by Suarez and Andy Carroll.
Liverpool are unbeaten in seven at Goodison Park, but last term’s scoreless stalemate was the fifth draw in that stretch. The Reds have 93 wins to the Toffees’ 66 victories, and the teams have shared the points on 73 occasions. Everton’s last win was a 2-0 triumph Oct. 17, 2010, on goals by Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta.
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Everton 1, Liverpool 1.
OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 29 PREVIEWS:
Tottenham Hotspur (20-0-8) vs. Arsenal (17-5-6)
Bournemouth (10-4-14) vs. Manchester City (22-2-4)
Wolverhampton (11-7-10) vs. Cardiff City (7-4-17)
West Ham United (10-6-12) vs. Newcastle United (8-7-13)