Everton have a hard task ahead of them when they host in-form Liverpool at Goodison Park on Saturday in the 224th Merseyside Derby (17:30 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
Everton come into the match on the back of just two wins in their last 10 league matches, and just three in their last 15 fixtures in all competitions. They are 12th in the Premier League table, with 26 points from six wins, eight draws and nine defeats.
Roberto Martinez’s side recorded their first victory since mid-December with a tightly contested 1-0 win away to Crystal Palace last weekend. Romelu Lukaku gave them an early lead following excellent work from Steven Naismith and they defended solidly thereafter under heavy pressure from their hosts to take a much-needed three points.
The Toffees finished fifth last season at the end of an impressive first campaign at the helm for Martinez but have been unable to reach a similar level of performance this time around. They are currently over twice as close to the relegation places as they are to the position in which they finished last season and would now likely view a top-half finish as their limit.
Everton have been both less potent in front of goal and less secure in defence compared to last season. They are scoring 0.26 less goals per match while conceding 0.45 more. Their successful traversal of the Europa League group stage did put additional strain on their relatively small squad but there are still a number of underlying problems to be solved.
Martinez will definitely be without the injured Leon Osman (foot), Steven Pienaar (knee) and Tim Howard (calf) for Saturday’s match, while James McCarthy (hamstring) is highly unlikely to take part after suffering a setback in training earlier this week.
Liverpool come into the derby in good form, having won five of their last six league matches and having lost just once in their last 13 in all competitions. They are seventh in the Premier League table, with 38 points from 11 wins, five draws and seven defeats.
Brendan Rodgers’ side progressed to the 5th round of the FA Cup with a come-from-behind 2-1 victory away to Championship side Bolton Wanderers on Wednesday. Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho scored two superbly executed goals inside the final five minutes of play to see them past their determined hosts, who played the final half hour with 10 men.
Liverpool seem to have recently rediscovered some of the attacking verve that played such a key role in their surprise title bid last season. Rodgers’ decision to switch to a 3-4-2-1 system, with forward-thinking wing-backs, two attacking midfielders and Sterling as a false nine, has seen their goal scoring rate increase significantly over their last six league fixtures.
The formation change has also brought about defensive improvements. Liverpool have kept three consecutive clean sheets in league play, with Emre Can, Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho forming a physical and solid centre-back trio in front of Simon Mignolet. Amazingly for a side written off before Christmas, Liverpool are now only four points off the top four.
Rodgers will definitely be without the injured Jon Flanagan (knee) for this game, while Brad Jones (thigh) is doubtful.
Everton v Liverpool Betting Tips
These two sides drew 1-1 when they met at Anfield in September, with Phil Jagielka scoring an injury-time equaliser for Everton. The last two fixtures at Goodison Park have been high-scoring draws – 3-3 last season and 2-2 the season before. Aside from those two results, the last six fixtures at Goodison have seen three wins for Liverpool and just one for Everton.
Having won just one of their last five matches in front of their own supporters, Everton could really do with a morale-boosting victory. They do, however, have a poor record against last season’s top eight finishers, having lost five, drawn three and won none of their eight matches against such opposition during the current campaign.
Liverpool seemed to have turned a corner over the last month or so and come into the derby high on confidence after good performances and results in recent matches. Rodgers seems to have found a formation that suits his players and with Daniel Sturridge (pictured above) now back from injury, the signs are bright for a strong conclusion to the campaign.
Everton have managed to draw at home to both Arsenal and Manchester City so far this season and given that both of the last two Merseyside Derbies at Goodison Park have ended in ties, we think that is again the most likely outcome on Saturday.
- Back the draw @ best odds of 5/2 with Boylesports or Stan James.
- While this has traditionally been a high-scoring fixture that seems unlikely to be the case this time around. Four of Everton’s last five home matches and three of Liverpool’s last five away matches have seen two or less goals and we expect to see a similarly low-scoring match on Saturday. Back under 2.5 goals @ 19/20 with Ladbrokes or BetVictor.