Everton V Liverpool: 7 Players to Watch in the Friendly Derby
The longest-running top-flight derby in the country will tip off this Saturday and is sure to be another great installment of this rivalry at Goodison. This is one of the great contests in English football and is always hotly contested and almost guaranteed to have a player see red.
The physicality and passion is rarely rivaled around Europe.
Everton come into the match after battling well to resist the advances of the Manchester City forwards for over an hour. Moyes even went as far defensively as to man-mark David Silva with either Rodwell or Neville. At Goodison, I doubt that the Everton manager will be so content with a 0-0 draw. The question is going to be the striking options.
Liverpool halted their skid in the Premier League with a deserved win over Mick McCarthy's men. In order to make a better case for a top-four spot, Liverpool need a strong performance against their city rivals. Their away form this season has not been up to snuff and a good display at Goodison Park will help to breed confidence into the side going forward.
This will be a tactical and cagey affair in the early goings and the play of the star performers will dictate how the match will unfold.
So let's set the stage on Merseyside with a look at some key players to watch in predicting the storyline come Saturday evening.
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I think it is more than apparent why you would start with the Uraguayan. He has been the best part of all the attacking moves for the Reds. His movement is arguably unmatched in the Premier League and he is really on form.
Everton like to use their backs to provide balls into the box which can cause a lot of problems for a team who can look vulnerable in the air like Liverpool. The advantage comes from the space this creates for Suarez to move into on either side of the centre-backs to receive the ball in attacking positions.
Dalglish will most likely start with Carroll alongside the No. 7. It was last week against Wolves that we started to see some fulfillment of the promise that these two possess as a striking partnership. Carroll held up play well and created a number of problems for the Wolves defense. This type of player is well-suited for the trickery, foresight and movement of Suarez.
Look for Suarez to come out firing from the whistle and really push Jagielka and Distin into making decisions in and around the box.
One would hope to see Kuyt started ahead of Henderson on the right-hand side of midfield because the understanding between the two former Dutch league stars would add an extra dimension to Liverpool's attack. Not to mention Kuyt comes in having scored in the last three Merseyside derbies.
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Osman is an excellent midfielder for Everton and will be a test of Enrique's defensive abilities. He has the ability to be a direct player and get to the byline, providing lovely crosses into the box just begging for someone to get on the end.
He will also be asked to mind the positioning of Stuart Downing on the left wing for Liverpool. Downing has looked menacing at times and Moyes will instruct the former Everton academy player to not leave Phil Neville alone to mind the England international.
Though Baines has become the go-to player in dead-ball situations, Osman can strike the ball equally well and his right foot complements Baines to give Everton the option to put in-swinging or out-swinging crosses for Pepe Reina to consider.
If he is able to perform at his best, it could result in the Reds conceding.
Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel
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Besides their inability to put games away after first-half dominance, one of the questions marks over the Liverpool squad is still the reliability of the two centre-backs. With Agger out again with a few broken ribs, Martin Skrtel has stepped in reasonably well and we learned he is an awful right-back.
Moyes' men will look to get a lot of crosses in from the full-backs and from as many set pieces as they can muster. It will be up to the two defenders to prevent any fortuitous second balls from ending up in the back of the net by clearing the ball confidently. There are a few who are beginning to question the legs of the Liverpool talisman Carragher, but with the stakes so high in a derby match, he will certainly up his game.
This is called the Friendly Derby because of so many split Red and Blue households on Merseyside, but in recent years, it has been becoming more and more contentious. Rarely in this clash do we end up with 20 men on the pitch.
Skrtel has a tendency to get a little over-amped for these types of matches, so it will be crucial for him to have a good match in the center.
If these two can win the battle in the air and prevent Saha from getting in behind, it should be a good day for the Reds side. If their teammates can do them the favor of maintaining a majority of possession, there should be few opportunities for Moyes' men to score.
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Gone are the days where Lucas is derided for his underwhelming presence on the pitch. Now it's a season where Lucas is one of the first names on the team sheet and Liverpool supporters cheer when he routinely steps in to repossess the ball for the Reds.
It will be interesting to see how David Moyes sets out his team. In the past, he has used Fallaini in behind the front striker in the form of Cahill to some good effect. But with the Australian out due to being stamped on by Vincent Kompany, it should be Saha leading the line if Everton want any chance of scoring. If that is the case, it will be Lucas who will be in and around the Belgian and breaking up play on the wings.
His job is a simple one, but always difficult. Lucas has had a tendency to pick up yellows for a succession of niggling fouls. In the derby, it would behoove him to hold off on that type of play until later in the match. If the Brazilian picks up an early yellow, it will surely be a concern for Dalglish and the away fans.
Rodwell will be performing in the same role for the opposite side on Saturday. Whoever outperforms his counterpart will have a lot to say in who comes out the victor.
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Baines is arguably Everton's best player after the departure of Arteta to Arsenal while also knocking on the door of a starting place for the England squad. The skilled left-footer has a deft touch on the ball and excels at shaking defenders. More importantly for Everton is his ability to provide service into the penalty area from varying crossing positions.
As previously mentioned, it will be Everton's goal to put pressure on the Reds defenders through the air in open play and from set pieces. Baines will be key to the success of both. The left-back will be asked to get forward a lot to jumpstart the attack for the not-so-prolific strikers at the Blues disposal.
I think the potential problems that Baines poses for Kenny Dalglish is another reason that Kuyt should start ahead of Henderson on the wing. The Dutch international's tireless running and positional awareness should help to stifle the forward runs by the former Wigan player.
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Everton have been short on goal scorers for some time now. Saha, aside from his injury problems, is a quality front man with plenty of great qualities a manager wants in a striker. In open play, the Frenchman will be instrumental in unlocking the LIverpool defense.
If Liverpool press high up the pitch, Saha will hope to exploit the space in behind with some well-timed runs. That might be all he can get if Liverpool win the battle in midfield. As the match wears on, he might become an isolated figure up top.
To prevent this from happening Moyes might opt to put Fellaini in behind Saha to link up the midfield and attack as previously mentioned. This could mean a role for the promising Ross Barkley alongside Jack Rodwell. Though, Moyes might ask Neville to perform a similar role to the one he played against Manchester City if the Everton manager goes with a 4-4-1-1 and Cahill isn't fit.
These matches are typically tight affairs and it will be essential for Everton that Saha perform well if they have any hope of taking all the points come Saturday.
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Just as Captain Fantastic is being eased back into the squad, Dalglish is faced with a match in which the Liverpool skipper will be dying to play a part. The Reds boss will likely continue to play it safe and bring Gerrard in off the bench.
It is a sign of the strides Liverpool has made when you can see goals in the side without the presence of Gerrard or Torres. Being able to bring Stevie in as a substitute will be a big advantage to Liverpool. Gerrard is infamous for his ability to change the match all on his own.
In what will be a tight contest in all likelihood, how quintissential would it be for Gerrard to come on and create or score the winner late on?
There is the possibility that he will start alongside Lucas, but I can't see King Kenny displacing Adam from the team. Dalglish could surprise us all and start Gerrard out on the right as well. Both prospects to relish, but in a long season, it is vital that Liverpool don't push their star man back into the action too soon, even in a derby such as this.
It all depends which way the game is leading right about the hour mark. If Liverpool are down, he could replace Lucas in the center or Kuyt on the right. Should the Reds find themselves a goal or two up in the second half, then he might replace one of the front men to sure up the midfield.
One thing is for sure and that is Gerrard will get on the pitch. Look for the level of his play to be the big factor in the outcome on Merseyside. What remains to be seen is if we will be privy to one of the game-changing performances of which he is more than capable. No one will be dying to do so more than Stevie G.