Two contenders for a top four finish meet on Tuesday when Liverpool host Everton in the 222nd Merseyside Derby (20:00 GMT, live on BT Sport).
Liverpool have enjoyed a strong season and are fourth in the Premier League table, one point ahead of their local rivals, with 43 points from 13 wins, four draws and five defeats.
The Reds come into the derby on the back of five matches undefeated in all competitions. They have been particularly good at home, winning nine out of 11 with a goal difference of +21. There were signs in the 2-2 draw with Aston Villa in their last home match that teams who get their tactics right could start to take points from them.
Brendan Rodgers has Liverpool playing a quicker, more attack-minded brand of football this season, prioritising the swift movement of the ball and players into the final third. While this approach has, generally, proved effective, it does leave his side open to quick counter attacks through the centre and in the space between the full-backs and central defenders.
Villa took advantage of these deficiencies to race into a 2-0 lead before the 40 minute mark, successfully utilising the pace of Gabby Agbonlahor to get in behind the home defence. Liverpool fought back to 2-2 following a second half reshuffle, but the match will have given Rodgers plenty to think about.
Liverpool will definitely be without the injured Daniel Agger (calf), Jose Enrique (knee), Glen Johnson (various niggles) and Lucas Leiva (knee) for this match, while Joe Allen (hamstring) and Mamadou Sakho (hamstring) both face late fitness tests. Martin Skrtel is expected to play despite suffering a nasty head wound in the 2-0 win over Bournemouth on Saturday.
Everton have performed above expectations so far this season and are running their local rivals close in the battle with Tottenham Hotspur for fourth place. They are sixth in the table with 42 points from 11 wins, nine draws and just two defeats.
Roberto Martinez (pictured above) has impressed since taking over from Manchester United-bound David Moyes last summer, maintaining the defensive solidity that was a key facet of the Moyes era while also implementing a more possession-based style of play. His side are compact, neat on the ball and generally limit their opponents to very few clear cut opportunities.
Everton are far from prolific scorers. Indeed, they have scored 18 less goals than Liverpool. Although they possess the likes of Romelo Lukaku, Kevin Mirallas, marauding right-back Seamus Coleman and set-piece expert Leighton Baines, they have, at times, failed to find a way through against obdurate opponents, drawing 0-0 on four occasions.
The Toffees come into the derby on the back of six matches undefeated in all competitions. The manner in which they drifted to a 1-1 draw away to West Bromwich Albion in their last league match may have been of concern to Martinez. His side need to be more decisive in their remaining fixtures if they hope to finish the season in the top four.
Martinez has a number of injury problems to contend with ahead of this match, with Arouna Kone (knee), Bryan Oviedo (broken leg), Darron Gibson (knee), Gerard Deulofeu (hamstring) and Ross Barkley (toe) all set to miss out. Antolin Alcaraz (muscle), Coleman (hamstring) and Steven Pienaar (groin) will face late fitness tests.
Liverpool v Everton Betting Tips Verdict
These sides drew 3-3 in a highly entertaining encounter at Goodison Park earlier this season and also shared the spoils in last year’s equivalent fixture, albeit in a less action-packed 0-0. Liverpool have four wins to Everton’s one in the last 10 league meetings, while Everton have not won at Anfield in going on 15 years.
Both these sides are in decent form and this match promises to be a very interesting one. Rodgers is likely to start with a three-man midfield to prevent Everton from gaining control of the centre of the pitch, but with his only dedicated holding player (Lucas) injured, Everton could still threaten if they are able to break quickly from defence.
Liverpool have the necessary attacking talent in Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez to cause Everton problems at the other end, but we do not expect to see the shot count heavily favour the home side. These two teams are relatively well matched and we foresee an even encounter in tune with recent Merseyside derbies. A draw is the most likely result.
- Back the draw @ best odds of 3/1 with William Hill.
- Liverpool have got off to a strong start in the majority of their home matches this season, scoring 19 first half goals in 11 matches and leading at the interval in nine of them. Everton usually look to keep things tight early on away from home, but the home side have enough attacking talent to suggest they are the most likely half-time leaders. Back Liverpool to be ahead at half time @ best odds of 6/4 with Stan James.