If you’d have asked Evertonians a couple of weeks ago how they felt heading into the second Merseyside derby of the season, responses would have probably been fairly positive. With the red half of the city in a prolonged slump and the Blues quickly gaining ground on them, it seemed as though Everton could have gone into the Anfield encounter as rare equals, while some of the more hopeful fans could’ve counted them favourites. Now though, after a second consecutive defeat to Manchester City on Wednesday, continuing a winless home league record in 2021 and taking just 4 points from the last 5 games, our own lack of form gives Liverpool renewed optimism for the weekend.
The good news for Everton is that Liverpool are not faring much better themselves at the moment. Although they picked up a midweek Champions League win at Red Bull Leipzig, Liverpool have lost their last 3 Premier League games, albeit against difficult opposition.
And, just as Everton have failed to win a league game at Goodison Park in 2021, Liverpool have matched that dismal record at Anfield. In a crazy season where a lot of teams have poor home records while thriving on the road, this could just be Everton’s best chance of picking up a result at Anfield for some time. That is, of course, if they get their game plan spot on.
So what constitutes a ‘perfect’ game plan against the reigning Premier League Champions? The best way to figure this out is to look at the approaches taken by the teams who have beaten Liverpool most recently: Southampton, Burnley, Brighton and Leicester City. (We’ll exclude Manchester City from that list as nobody can compete with Pep Guardiola’s team for sheer footballing ability.)
The other outfits all shared a very similar tactic – bolster the defence and midfield, then hit them on the break with plenty of speed and nick a goal if possible. Danny Ings’s winning goal at St Mary’s came from a well-worked free-kick in the 2nd minute, then his team were able to defend that lead for the remainder of the game. While having the majority of possession in all of those games, Liverpool were unable to get their front three firing with such little space in and around the box.
Everton simply have to do the same and, given what we have witnessed in recent wins over Leeds Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea, we have developed a knack for defending one-goal leads deep into the second half. It doesn’t make for easy watching, but it’s been effective thus far.
That’s why at the back, I’m throwing in all of our available options and picking the back-five that has been so effective when called upon. Yerry Mina is out injured, so Mason Holgate takes up a centre-back role alongside Michael Keane, with Seamus Coleman on the right and the currently undroppable Ben Godfrey shadowing Lucas Digne on the left. Godfrey’s pace is going to be crucial in managing the threat of Mohamed Salah down the Liverpool right, while Holgate will have to be wary of Mane’s clever runs on the other side and support Coleman when needed.
The midfield and front line are tricky to predict due to the uncertainty surrounding the fitness of a couple of players. I’ll be optimistic and say they’re all fit, but I anticipate some alterations on account of some not being quite ready to start.
On the right, I’m going with Richarlison. The Brazilian will be key for defensive cover on that side, while his strong dribbles will be crucial on the counter and in the battle against Andy Robertson.
In the middle, Abdoulaye Doucouré and Allan should both start if fit as they’re the best ground-coverers we have. We need to win the midfield battle and win the ball back as high up as possible, so these are the best central combination for me. Tom Davies would be unfortunate to get dropped on recent performances and may find himself occupying Allan’s role if he is unable to start.
On the left, I’ll go with James Rodriguez. Concerns over his defensive ability will be minimised by the presence of Digne and Godfrey working that side with him; in a game where fine margins are likely to count for so much, you simply can’t leave James out. I’d expect him and Richarlison to occupy more free central roles as they look to dictate the play in the midfield a bit more, which they’ll be allowed to do once Coleman and Digne advance up the field.
Up top, Dominic Calvert-Lewin simply must start if he’s available. There’s a bit of uncertainty surrounding his fitness at the moment but he’s our best option as a target man and to unsettle the makeshift Liverpool backline. Should he be unfit, Richarlison starts up top and Alex Iwobi comes in to take up the role I outlined for Richarlison in the right of midfield.
The most dangerous attacks are most likely to come from the left and Lucas Digne’s crosses, so much like Manchester City did against us with Riyad Mahrez, we need to flood that side with men in a bid to make some space for his crosses into the box.
Back in goal, I’m just about choosing Jordan Pickford but I’m becoming more and more convinced that Robin Olsen is a better goalkeeper. This could be Pickford’s last chance to prove himself to Carlo Ancelotti on a big stage.
By no means will it be an easy task, but team selection is a key point that needs to be perfected by the manager... yet, all too often this season, this has been suspect. Ancelotti will have his own plan that could be vastly different to what I think would give us the best chance of victory, but I trust him with his years of experience more than I trust anyone. Returns from injury could be crucial in making up Ancelotti’s mind in a couple of key positions, but the rest of the team boils down to what has worked in the past and key players he can rely on.
I’m slightly more optimistic about this clash than I have been in recent years as this season has been so unorthodox, but I still expect it’ll take a mighty performance to take 3 points here. As a Blue, it's the hope that kills going into these games, but we’re certainly capable of getting a result; to achieve it, the players need to show us every ounce of the belief and spirit that Ancelotti has often credited. Up the Toffees!
Reader Comments (17)
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1 Posted 18/02/2021 at 23:13:02
2 Posted 18/02/2021 at 23:20:16
Holgate Keane Godfrey Digne
Allan Davies Doucoure
King DCL Richie
Iwobi in if DCL not right. Let Digne take the corners. Play it long and diagonal whenever you see their fullbacks go up.
3 Posted 19/02/2021 at 00:12:40
4 Posted 19/02/2021 at 00:20:25
5 Posted 19/02/2021 at 00:27:45
Holgate, Keane, Godfrey.
Because we're deepish ( but not too deep eh lads) 5 in the middle; Coleman, Davies, Doucoure, Allen, Digne.
I don't expect, nor want DCL to be rushed back too soon; King, Richarlson or Richarlson, King...no to fussed which way they do it as they must be shuttling back and forwards across the front.
Oh and take turns in kicking lumps off them from the first minute...it won't really do anything in the grand scheme of things, it may upset them and suck them into a kicking match, with subsequent lack of focus on the game plan...I just think the rs should be kicked as a matter of...of...well its your civic duty.
Edit; Keeper? again not too fussed, they're both a different sort of average, there will be no crowd to egg softlad on, its a coin toss.
Oh yes before I forget, the coin toss, win it and make them kick into the kop the first half, my rs contact, says it annoys the fuck out of him.
6 Posted 19/02/2021 at 01:39:26
I really think that the Fulham game should have been treated like a cup final. The next two games, City and Shite, more than likely would be zero points, so you absolutely had to get 3 points from Fulham.
I was hoping for 4 points from these games ( 3 then 1...impossible to get points from City ) It looks like we are going to lose 3 in a row. Please prove me wrong Blue Boys!!!
7 Posted 19/02/2021 at 02:11:16
8 Posted 19/02/2021 at 02:45:13
Even if we beat the RS I won't be happy with the 3 points from last three games. It will just automatically become should have had 6.
9 Posted 19/02/2021 at 03:13:03
Sadly any optimism I have of us winning there has diminished after that embarrassing cup defeat there last season. I do genuinely believe Everton as a club are petrified of them. Not joking sadly.
If we were to somehow keep a clean sheet then I do see us winning the game. But my word it is a very very big ask. End of the day they were champions last season. They're still a top top side despite their recent form.
Really hope Everton prove me wrong and surprise me in the most positive way as possible.
10 Posted 19/02/2021 at 03:58:22
So how credible is the report?
The link is in Spanish and you get the gist of it..
11 Posted 19/02/2021 at 07:47:14
Winning the derby has everything to do with mentality
For some reason we sometimes go into this game with a game plan, tactics, on paper a good enough team and good form. However as soon as we cross the white line and see those red shirts we go to rat shit
Until we get ourselves right mentally we'll always finish second best
12 Posted 19/02/2021 at 07:47:17
13 Posted 19/02/2021 at 08:04:21
No reason at all why we can't win this game.
14 Posted 19/02/2021 at 08:36:49
15 Posted 19/02/2021 at 14:09:30
Rodriguez has the skill and ability, but has he the stomach for the physicality of this match? Doucoure and Allan, if fully fit, can be pencilled in, supported by Davies whose energy is essential. The back four picks itself, Holgate, Keane, Godfrey and Digne.
If Allan is not fit I suspect Ancelotti will revert to a back three, using Digne and Iwobi as the wing backs and drop Rodriguez. Digne must support Godfrey especialy as Salah will be supported by Alexander Arnold down that flank. Digne is an excellent attacking support, his defensive work isn't always equally good.
Everton must play tight. They must not give the ball away as easily as they did on Wednesday night. I don't expect us to win in all honesty, but let's make sure that they know they've been in a match and let's hope to sneak a couple of goals against a frail back line.
16 Posted 21/02/2021 at 04:04:47
17 Posted 22/02/2021 at 11:20:48
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