National football: Can Liverpool win Merseyside derby and stay in touch with Chelsea?
It's that time of the season. The time when the families of Merseyside are divided into red and blue.
Christmas may only be a few days away, but for fans of Everton and Liverpool, tonight’s Merseyside derby comes close to the excitement of the festive period, such is the exhilaration that this game brings to them.
Although Liverpool have fared well against the Toffees at home in recent seasons, the Reds have struggled to overcome their across the park rivals at Goodison Park, drawing their last four games.
Both sides go into the game on the back of victories with Everton impressively beating title hopefuls Arsenal, whilst Liverpool comfortably overcome Middlesbrough 3-0 at the Riverside.
With both teams having won so magnificently, another draw seems a likely outcome, however, does Liverpool’s scintillating form over the course of the season put them in pole position to end Everton’s unbeaten run at home this season and finally leave Goodison Park with 3 points?
If Wednesday night’s performance is anything to go by then yes. The Reds took apart Middlesbrough, showcasing their devastating attacking prowess once again. The attacking quartet of Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino and Divock Origi all took centre stage with stunning delicate interchanges and deadly finishing.
The latter has come into the side in the place of the injured Phillipe Coutinho and has scored an admirable five goals in five games, a great run of form going into such a big game.
Alongside Lallana, midfielders Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum efficiently kept things ticking in midfield whilst also demonstrating phenomenal pressing of the opposition to win the ball back.
With Simon Mignolet replacing the struggling Loris Karius in goal, Klopp’s side looked far more assured at the back, restricting Middlesbrough to just half chances.
Everton in contrast, took until the second half to really get going against Arsenal, with the Toffees looking for the best part poor in the first half, something which has been the case with many of their performances over the last two months.
Their second half resurgence in the game can be seen to of been massively due to the roaring home support. The Everton faithful were in full voice, showing there aren’t many place’s in the country like Goodison during a big game.
There’s no doubting the crowd will be electric on Monday night, something which should give the Blues a big advantage.
However Liverpool have proven to be no slouches against the big teams away from home this season with Jurgen Klopp’s men already beating title favourites Chelsea and Arsenal delivering breathtaking performances in both outings.
The Reds were given a reality check though when they were beaten 4-3 by Bournemouth just over two weeks ago, in a game where their defensive weaknesses were fully exposed. It’s no secret that their frailties lie at the back, something which Ronald Koeman will be looking to exploit during the game. Although Mignolet impressed on his return to the starting line up in midweek, the reality is that the Belgian hasn’t been good enough over the course of his Liverpool career. Everton should still look to the Belgium International as being a weakness and put the goalkeeper under pressure.
Like Liverpool, Everton have been leaking in goals of late too, however, their defensive form has been much better at home with the Toffees impressively yet to concede more than once at Goodison Park this season.
With Liverpool having scored 40 goals already this season theirs no reason to suggest why the leagues top scorers can’t change that statistic come Monday night.
For Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, its just his second Merseyside Derby since taking over the Reds, his first at Goodison Park.
Should Liverpool lose, they will fall nine points behind Chelsea at the top of the table, giving further huge implications ahead of the match.
If they do so, they still should not give up on their dream of being crowned Premier League champions, however, Jurgen Klopp will possibly have to start realistically looking at a top four finish instead.
A push for the top four seems highly unlikely for Everton on the other hand, but a win would keep the momentum up at a crucial time of the season and enable them to sustain a push for a place in the Europa League come the end of the season. With the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley at their disposal, they are certainly capable of doing so.
The matter of who will come out victorious in the 227th Merseyside Derby remains to be remains to be seen, but the evidence suggests Liverpool are in a strong position to finally end their four game winless run at Goodison Park.