How Everton Will Line Up Against Liverpool

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How Everton Will Line Up Against Liverpool
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Everton and Liverpool lock horns on Tuesday for the 222nd Merseyside derby, poised to be one of the most pivotal meetings in recent years.

As Jonathan Northcroft highlights in The Sunday Times (subscription required), this rivalry is among the closest in modern sport.

Since the 2009/10 season, Liverpool have taken just one more point across a 174-game period: 277 points to Everton's 276. Indeed, these sides have been separated by just one place in each of the past four Premier League seasons.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Both clubs currently sit in the top six with eyes firmly focused on a Champions League place. The winner of this match will edge ahead in the battle for a top-four finish, leaving their rivals behind.

This season's reverse fixture was enthralling viewing, with Liverpool scoring late to snatch a point in a six-goal thriller.

The Reds have won seven of the last 14 league meetings with Everton, although the past three have all been drawn. The Toffees' last win at Anfield came way back in 1999.

 

Team News

Everton are in the midst of an injury crisis which leaves them stretched in several areas of the field.

Roberto Martinez was unsurprisingly coy during his pre-match press conference, unwilling to reveal which of his injured contingent could feature:

Bryan Oviedo, Darron Gibson, Arouna Kone, Steven Pienaar, Antolin Alcaraz, Sylvain Distin, Gerard Deulofeu, Ross Barkley, Phil Jagielka and Seamus Coleman have all missed playing time in recent weeks, reducing the Catalan's options.

Of that list of 10, Martinez highlighted six players that could possibly return for this game, with quotes given to Everton's official website:

We've got a group of six players that we need to assess. They're carrying a few knocks and injuries. 

Phil Jagielka had to come off at half-time against Stevenage and we have Sylvain Distin, Antolin Alcaraz, Seamus Coleman, Steven Pienaar and Ross Barkley.

Everton fielded a depleted lineup for their FA Cup tie with Stevenage, providing extra time for these players to heal. Elsewhere, new signing Lacina Traore is also a doubt.

 

Selection

With that team news considered, here's a look at Martinez's potential starting XI:

Everton vs. LFC - Football tactics and formations

This XI has to accommodate the undisclosed availability of several potential starters.

What is certain is that Martinez will deploy the same 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 shape that has been used all season, recalling Tim Howard to prop up the Premier League's second-best defence.

 

Which player not in this XI should start?

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Leighton Baines is guaranteed to start at left-back, but the remaining defensive selections appear far more of a gamble.

Seamus Coleman is the likeliest absentee, withdrawn against West Brom with a hamstring injury. His role will go to John Stones, as long as both Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielkawho started the Toffees' most recent Premier League matchare fit to return.

If either centre-back misses out, then John Heitinga or Antolin Alcaraz could be used, unless Martinez prefers using Stones in the middle and drafting Tony Hibbert in at right-back. 

Ahead of them, the partnership of James McCarthy and Gareth Barry will remain intact and be crucial in enforcing the Toffees' approach.

Kevin Mirallas and Leon Osman will fill two of the three attacking slots and, while many news outlets expect him to miss out, Ross Barkley may return and prove a surprise inclusion.

Sang Tan/Associated Press

If not, Aiden McGeady or Steven Naismith will be in line to play, with either Osman or Mirallas taking the central role. Steven Pienaar would also be starting, but seems another injury doubt unlikely to make it.

Romelu Lukaku will continue up front, eager to replicate his double strike during his first Merseyside derby. If fit, Traore will supply ammunition from the bench.

 

Key Battles

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Clearly, a large proportion of Everton's focus will surround how best to contain Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. 

The free-scoring duo have 33 of Liverpool's 53 Premier League goals this season—60 percent—despite missing 13 games between them.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Suarez is the most prolific striker in the country, averaging a goal every 69 minutes13 minutes better than any other Premier League player

He has often prospered against Distin and, if selected, the Frenchman must erase any mental scars accumulated from previous duels.

Everton's possession game is designed to draw their opponents out, making the clash of Barry and McCarthy against the high pressing of Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard especially decisive.

If the visitors can maintain a slick tempo with quick transitions, they will find space in the final third against what's been an unconvincing defence.

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In November's fixture, Everton managed 12 shots on target, a total they haven't surpassed in any game over the past two seasons.

Martinez will be looking for similar penetration at Anfield and will also note Liverpool's vulnerability in the air, conceding 29 percent of their goals from headers—the Premier League's highest proportion this season.

Finally, all three of Liverpool's recent derby goals came via set pieces, something the Toffees must be better prepared for this time around.

Prediction: Liverpool 2-2 Everton

 

Statistics via WhoScored.com

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