Why Everton vs. Liverpool Is the Biggest Game in Football This Weekend
Manchester United take on league-leaders and undefeated Chelsea Sunday at noon ET, but the real action kicks off a couple hours before up north.
The first Merseyside Derby of the season sees 12th-placed Liverpool travel to fourth-placed Everton (not a typo) Sunday morning at 9:30 ET, and it is always a match well worth watching.
So far, it's been a strange season up on Merseyside.
Everton are flying in the early months with 15 points and only one loss on the year when they've been notorious for awful starts and strong finishes. Currently, the Toffees are enjoying their best start to a season since 2004, a season in which they finished in fourth spot.
Liverpool on the other hand have been disappointing but not incredibly surprising given the change of manager and system over the summer. The Reds were wallowing in the relegation zone for a few weeks and only have two wins to their name, but their play has picked up as of late.
Form means nothing in the Merseyside Derby though. Take last year for example.
Liverpool were 3-0 against the Toffees last year, including a 2-1 victory at Wembley in an FA Cup semifinal match where the Reds were forced to play their third-string keeper.
In recent years, the Reds have been mirroring their neighbors' slow starts, causing many to term the match the Miseryside Derby. Not the case this year.
Liverpool are no longer reeling, but they certainly aren't all the way back up yet. Brendan Rodgers does have his team playing better though.
David Moyes' side has slowed a bit of late and he has a few suspensions and injuries to deal with, but Everton overall has to be the favorite.
So, why do you absolutely have to watch this match Sunday?
David Moyes Has Something to Prove
The Toffees' last derby victory came two years ago at Goodison, the first match for Liverpool's new owners Fenway Sports Group.
In Moyes' 10-plus years with Everton, he has only defeated Liverpool a total of four times—one of those coming in an FA Cup Fourth Round Replay and all the victories coming at home.
A victory in the FA Cup semifinal last year would have been huge for Everton and in particular Moyes. And they should've gotten it done.
The Toffees had form on their side, capitalized on a defensive error and Liverpool had to field a vastly inexperienced goalkeeper. But Everton collapsed thanks to Sylvain Distin.
Moyes has been an amazing manager at Everton, and the fact that his side has finished within touching distance of European places many years despite far inferior resources is a testament to his managerial skills.
But he's been utterly dominated by Liverpool in his tenure, and that just won't do, especially when his side have often been better but haven't gotten the job done. Moyes has been left scratching his head at times after watching a previously lifeless Liverpool somehow become world class against his side, and he'll be prepared for that this weekend.
Who Gets Sent Off?
Even though it's the Friendly Derby, the Merseyside Derby has seen more red cards than any other match in the Premier League. Some call it a lack of discipline while others just say it's good, tough football.
At times however, a poor decision by the referee has ruined a derby match (like last year).
So far this season, Liverpool and Everton have had their fair share of indiscretions, and it's a safe bet to say there will be some yellow cards given out before the halftime whistle.
Who will see that second yellow or possibly straight red? Hopefully there won't be any red-card offenses Sunday, but players like Leighton Baines and Jonjo Shelvey will be in the thick of the action at Goodison, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see them tiptoeing over the line a time or two.
Will Europa League Play a Factor?
The Merseyside Derby was moved to Sunday for Liverpool's Europa League commitments this year, and because of previous results in the group stages, Brendan Rodgers can't rest his star players before Sunday's big matchup.
Liverpool don't have to travel before the derby, and a match two days later shouldn't be too detrimental, but Everton will have fresher legs in addition to the home crowd advantage.
Given Liverpool's at times lackadaisical look this season, a fast start in the match for Everton could seal the points.
The Merseyside Derby is the longest-running top-flight derby in English football as both sides have been in the top flight since 1962-63. Before the inception of the Premier League, Merseyside dominated English football with Everton and Liverpool claiming the bulk of domestic trophies.
The '80s were the glory days of the rivalry; however, the sides faced off in the League and FA Cups as well as jockeying for top position in the league.
During these days, the neighbors are competing for cup trophies mostly in the early rounds and are battling for mid-level or just barely European places in the league table, it's still fun to see the two neck and neck.
The Merseyside Derby is always filled with excitement whether you support one of the clubs or not. Between the cards given out, the storylines off the field and the football itself, Everton vs. Liverpool never disappoints.
So while United's visit to Stamford Bridge may go a longer way in deciding the title at the end of the season (who really cares about that right now anyway?), the derby up north will have twice the action.
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