Liverpool make the short trip to Goodison Park on Sunday looking to maintain their position as the Premier League pace-setters when they take on rivals Everton.
The Reds beat their neighbours from across Stanley Park 1-0 at Anfield in early December when Divock Origi netted the winner deep into stoppage-time.
The Belgian forward was on target again on Wednesday night, with his effort coming between a brace apiece from Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk to secure an impressive 5-0 win over Watford ahead of the 233rd Merseyside derby.
Marco Silva’s Everton, meanwhile, ended a run of three defeats with a timely 3-0 win away at Cardiff City.
So, what can we expect from the Toffees on Sunday?
We spoke to Adam Partington (@PartAdam), from Everton website GrandOldTeam, to find out…
How important was the 3-0 win over Cardiff heading into the derby?
Although the performance wasn’t perfect, and Everton frustratingly gave the ball away on too many occasions, the second half was the best we’ve played since the previous derby.
The goals were very easy on the eye and it gives us something to hold on to. If Everton didn’t win that game, Cardiff could have been just five points behind us and the optimism going into the derby wouldn’t have been great. So, yeah, it was an important win.
Did Phil Jagielka’s return as skipper in the centre of defence have a bearing on the performance?
We looked a lot more solid. At the grand old age of 36, Phil won’t be playing for Everton much longer, but his intelligence is valuable. He won’t beat anyone in a race, but he’s smart enough to read the game and spot things before others do.
There’s not been a massive clamber to see him involved again on Sunday because Liverpool pose a completely different threat to Cardiff, but if Jagielka does feature it might not be the worst thing in the world given how poor we’ve been at the back. Two games inside a week is a big ask for him now, though.
How have the Everton team evolved since we last met in early December?
The bar is generally set quite low for us at Anfield, but that performance was the best we’ve seen there in years. I don’t think Liverpool fans can honestly look us in the eye and say they deserved all three points.
Since then, we’ve seen the intensity within our play drop. It’s been very disappointing, but Sunday offers a great chance to put things right.
What would you like to see Marco Silva achieve over the remaining 10 games of the season?
What has been the standout moment of your campaign so far?
You know what? We haven’t really had one. We’ve exited both domestic cup competitions at early stages and have had very little to cheer about.
Who have been the standout performers for Everton this season?
Lucas Digne has been good. He’s taken to life at Everton well. Idrissa Gueye is quite important to us and has reportedly caught the attention of Paris Saint-Germain due to the standard of some of his performances, but apart from that, nobody has really been exceptional.
I also like Kurt Zouma, he’s got a lot going for him and I hope we sign him permanently.
What have you made of Liverpool this season?
From a non-Evertonian perspective, I’ve enjoyed watching them. They are, without doubt, a terrifically talented football team with some exceptional players. On their day, I don’t think another side has a better front three.
I do admire the way Klopp and Liverpool have reprogrammed their recruitment to focus on the players they know they need, put a lot of faith in them, paid the cash and let them blossom.
How do you expect Everton to line up?
Jordan Pickford will start in goal and you’ll see Seamus Coleman and Digne in the full-back positions. Although Jagielka did well against Cardiff, I suspect Zouma will return from suspension to slot in alongside Michael Keane.
Andre Gomes and Gueye will play behind Gylfi Sigurdsson. We won’t deploy Richarlison as the front man this time because he was completely overwhelmed by Virgil van Dijk at Anfield and hasn’t set the world alight in recent weeks. We could see him on the left and Theo Walcott on the right, with Bernard and Ademola Lookman as ready replacements to introduce as the game goes on.
There will be calls for both of them to start, but I sense Marco likes the idea of bringing them on to make an impact when defenders start to tire. I’d expect Dominic Calvert-Lewin to lead the line.
Which areas do you think the teams will try to exploit in each other?
I imagine Klopp will see a weakness on Everton’s right-hand side and will want to hurt us there, Coleman isn’t the player he once was. I alluded to this earlier, but the front three of Liverpool will cause far better sides than Everton issues so it’s going to be a massive challenge.
We’ll need to do a lot better with the ball and we’ll have to be defensively sound.
Calvert-Lewin has pace so dropping balls into dangerous areas in the final third for him to try to latch on to (while trying to avoid Van Dijk) could prove an optimal strategy, especially if Lookman and Bernard are introduced later.
What is your prediction for the game?
You have to go back to 2010 for the last time we beat Liverpool and that’s far too long, I’m so desperate for us to end this horrible record but I can’t see it happening on Sunday. I’ll play it safe and go with 1-1.
Premier League 2018-19
Premier League 2018-19