Everton have started the season strongly and will be keen to extend their advantage over city rivals Liverpool when the two sides meet in the 219th Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park on Sunday (13:30 GMT).
The Toffees are currently fourth, six points clear of 12th place Liverpool, having suffered just one defeat in eight matches. They were content with a point from a visit to Queen’s Park Rangers in their last fixture after playing the final half hour with ten men following Steven Pienaar’s dismissal.
Pienaar’s absence is likely to be keenly felt on Sunday as his relationship with Leighton Baines on Everton’s left is one of the key facets of their attacking play. Pienaar’s arrival on loan from Tottenham precipitated Everton’s excellent form in the second half of last season and he has provided three assists already in this campaign since signing permanently in the summer.
Belgian forward Kevin Miralles will likely deputise for Pienaar on the left, with Steven Naismith taking the right hand position occupied by Miralles in the draw with QPR. Miralles is yet to truly burst into life following his £6 million move from Olympiakos, but there can be few better stages than a local derby to prove his worth.
It is, however, the potential return of one of Miralles’ compatriots that is likely to have a bigger bearing on the outcome of the match. Marouane Fellaini has been seeing a specialist in Belgium in an attempt to hasten his return from a knee injury and is in contention to start on Sunday.
Everton were often left chasing shadows against a neat QPR midfield last weekend and will be grateful for the additional physical presence Fellaini, if fit, will bring to that area of the pitch against a Liverpool side who will look to manoeuvre the ball in a similar manner. Fellaini is also a potent goal threat, his heading prowess always a problem for opposition defences.
Liverpool’s defence has previously proven more proficient than most in dealing with Fellaini, as he is yet to score in a Merseyside derby. Central defenders Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel are both 6ft 2in tall, while emerging right-back Andre Wisdom, again impressive in the midweek Europa League victory over Anzhi Makhachkala, also measures in at over 6ft.
Liverpool recorded a third straight clean sheet in the 1-0 win over Anzhi on Thursday. After conceding 20 goals in their first 11 competitive matches following the start of the Premier League season it is clear that some defensive improvements have been made. However, the fact that two of those three clean sheets came at home to Stoke City (0-0) and Reading (1-0) makes it difficult to draw definitive conclusions.
An easier run of fixtures has seen Liverpool record two wins and a draw from their last three league matches, a far cry from the two draws and three defeats that marked a difficult start to the season that included encounters with Arsenal and both Manchester clubs.
Manager Brendan Rodgers would probably like to see recent results as indicative of a squad connecting with his ideas. Indeed, their improved possession statistics over last season demonstrate that at least that specific part of his philosophy has been successfully absorbed. The truth, though, is that Liverpool are probably neither as bad as early results suggested or as good as more recent ones make them out to be.
Goal scoring has been a clear problem so far this season. Liverpool have scored 10 in eight Premier League matches, the ninth worst record in the league. If you subtract the 5-2 thrashing of Norwich, a paltry five goals in the other seven fixtures speaks to a problem worsened by the recent injury to summer signing Fabio Borini, which will keep the Italian forward out of action until January.
Like last season, Liverpool’s trouble has come in converting the chances they create. They take the fourth highest number of shots per match (18.8 on average) in the league, but get just 23.4% of those on target, the second worst ratio in the division. They then find the back of the net with just 28.41% of those shots on target, the fifth worst such record. It is clear that a prolific striker will be top priority in the next transfer window.
Everton vs Liverpool Betting Tips Verdict
Everton are marginal favourites due to their excellent start to the season but have a poor record in recent derbies, winning just one of the last seven and losing four of the last six they have hosted.
These matches are often tightly contested, tempestuous affairs, and despite Liverpool’s lower league placing we would expect this to be an even encounter, with the spoils eventually being shared.
- Therefore, back the draw @ best odds of 12/5 at Pinnacle.
- There has been just one red card in the last five fixtures between these sides and even though both teams will be full-blooded in their approach we feel both have the wherewithal to keep themselves in check. Therefore back under 1 red card @ 2/5 with Bwin Bookmaker.