Liverpool have been banging in the goals in recent weeks and will hope to rack up a few more in asserting their dominance over city rivals Everton at Anfield on Sunday (14:15 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
The 2004-05 season was the last time Everton finished ahead of Liverpool in the league. While derby results have been a bit more even, Liverpool have won each of the last three and have not lost a home derby in 18 years. They have won 4-0 at Anfield in two of the last four seasons.
Liverpool’s form coming into Sunday’s match suggests they have a good chance of getting close to a similar scoreline this time out. They have scored three or more goals in eight of their last nine matches en route to seven wins and two draws. They are solidly positioned in fourth in the league and made it through to the Champions League last 16 as group winners.
The latter achievement was sealed with a 7-0 demolition of Spartak Moscow on Wednesday. Philippe Coutinho notched a hat-trick and Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane all scored as Liverpool’s attack made short work of the visitors’ defence. Jurgen Klopp afterwards said that the whole of Europe will now be worried about facing his strike force.
Attack is clearly Liverpool’s strong point. The incisive pace of summer signing Salah has added another dimension to their forward line, in turn allowing Coutinho to become part of the midfield trio and create problems from deeper areas. Salah has made a direct contribution to a goal per match, with 12 goals and three assists across his 15 league appearances to date.
Aside from a couple of slip-ups, Liverpool have also looked more solid defensively since the start of October. There is still a lack of genuine quality in their defensive ranks, while certain structural problems persist, but they now look to have at least found a way of providing a relatively solid base for the outstanding attack ahead of them.
Everton have been neither solid defensively nor potent in attack so far this season. Significant summer investment was intended to propel them forward from their seventh place finish last time out to become top-six challengers but the reality has been very different. A poor start saw Ronald Koeman depart, and after some time under the caretaker stewardship of David Unsworth, they have now turned to Sam Allardyce to lead them forth.
Allardyce got off to a good start with a 2-0 win at home to Huddersfield last weekend. His side laboured during the opening 45 minutes but an early second-half strike from Glyfi Sigurdsson opened up the game and allowed Dominic Calvert-Lewin to add a second later on. In combination with the 4-0 win at home to West Ham a few days earlier, it provided reason for optimism.
There are, though, still plenty of issues to address. Allardyce is a coach who usually likes to build from the back and his first task will therefore be to stabilise a defensive unit who have conceded 28 goals to date – the third-worst record in the division. When January comes, a top-line striker will be among his priorities, while a little more ingenuity in midfield wouldn’t go amiss either.
Everton are already out of Europe (despite a 3-0 win with a reserve side away to Apollon on Thursday) and their league campaign is not exactly going as hoped, but they have enough quality in their squad to avoid being dragged back down into the lower reaches of the table. They are currently 10th, and unless Allardyce can bring about a dramatic improvement in performance levels, they are likely to finish there or thereabouts.
Their more immediate goal is to make life difficult for their local rivals this weekend. The three previous matches between Klopp’s Liverpool and sides coached by Allardyce have resulted in a win apiece and a draw, which given the lesser quality of Allardyce’s sides suggests he should be capable of setting up Everton to frustrate Liverpool on Sunday.
While some imperfections remain, Liverpool have been in stellar form over the last six weeks or so and have an attack that only the two Manchester sides have been able to shut down so far this season. Everton will be awkward opponents, but Liverpool can still be expected to grab the local bragging rights by emerging victorious.