Can Everton put a dent in the title hopes of their local rivals Liverpool when the two sides meet in the Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park on Sunday? (16:15 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
If they are to do so, Everton will have to overturn one of the most lopsided derby form-books of recent times. Liverpool are undefeated against Everton in their last 18 matches in all competitions, with Everton’s last win in the fixture coming in 2010.
Things have, though, been a bit closer at Goodison Park. The last six league encounters there have yielded one win for Liverpool and five draws, including a 0-0 last season. Another draw this weekend would be enough to potentially see Liverpool knocked off the top of the table.
Jurgen Klopp’s side hold a one point advantage over Manchester City in second following their 5-0 thrashing of Watford at Anfield on Wednesday. Sadio Mane scored twice inside the opening 20 minutes to get them on their way, before second-half goals from Divock Origi and a double from Virgil van Dijk sealed a comprehensive victory.
It was the perfect riposte to Liverpool’s relatively lacklustre performance in their dour goalless draw away to Manchester United last weekend and a warning shot to City that despite dropping points in three of their last five and four of their last eight in the league, there is still plenty of fight left in them. “Let’s try and do it again and again,” Klopp said afterwards.
They will have to do just that if they are to take enough points from their remaining 10 matches to hold off City and secure their first league title since 1990. After Everton, they still have Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur to come, but Man City also have a couple of similarly tough encounters in a pair of run-ins that look more or less even in terms of difficulty.
The bookmakers now record City, who do have the superior goal difference, as the favourites to claim the Premier League title, but statistical modelling websites seem to make it more or less a 50/50 tossup. With City highly likely to win away to a Bournemouth side who have won just twice since Christmas, a victory in this Merseyside Derby will be essential if Liverpool are to maintain their position atop the table.
Everton will, of course, be keen to get the better of their neighbours on Sunday and so do their part in extending Liverpool’s long wait for their 19th league title. That would provide at least a minor point of pride given that the last 29 years have not been especially kind to the Toffees in terms of silverware or glory, with just one FA Cup win in 1995 to their credit.
Despite significant investment in recent seasons, Everton are yet to break free of the midfield pack and mount a serious challenge to the top six. While they could still finish seventh this season, it says much for the inconsistency of all the teams in the group competing for that position that Marco Silva’s side remain just four points off it despite losing four of their five matches prior to their midweek 3-0 win away to lowly Cardiff.
Silva made a fairly promising start to life in the Everton dugout, but much of that early sheen has now worn off, and more serious questions are starting to be asked of his approach. His side picked up 1.57 points per match over their first 14 matches of the campaign. In the subsequent 14, they have picked up just one per match – near-relegation kind of form. They have won just one of their last seven at Goodison Park.
So while Silva and his team will clearly be motivated to secure a positive result on Sunday, both to aide their own chances of finishing seventh and to lessen Liverpool’s chances of claiming the title, the truth is that it is difficult to see them doing so. They have already suffered defeats to Spurs (2-6) and Man City (0-2) in their only two home matches against other top-six sides.
Our Preview’s Merseyside Derby Betting Tips Verdict
A Liverpool victory in a match featuring more goals than recent Merseyside Derby encounters have generally seen looks the most probable outcome.