Everton vs Liverpool – 3 key battles to watch out for
The Merseyside derby has always been among the most fiercely contested derbies in English football, with little love lost between the fans of Liverpool and Everton. The upcoming clash between the two Merseyside rivals at Goodison Park on Saturday will be staged behind closed doors but that is unlikely to dampen the excitement levels among the supporters.
Everton will head into the contest top of the table and three points clear of Jurgen Klopp’s side, having won all of their four opening fixtures in the Premier League so far. Meanwhile, reigning champions Liverpool will be hoping to get their title defence back on track after an ignominious 7-2 hammering against Aston Villa before the international break.
Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 22 fixtures against Everton in all competitions, which pretty much makes Klopp’s side the hot favourites for the weekend contest. The last time that Everton beat the Reds in a Premier League fixture was way back in October 2010, but with Carlo Ancelotti’s side in tremendous form right now, the tables could very well turn in their favour on Saturday.
With that in mind, it’s time now for us to take a look at 3 individual battles that could decide the fate of the Merseyside derby this weekend.
1. James Rodriguez vs Andy Robertson
Talking about impact signings in the Premier League this summer, they don’t get much bigger than James Rodriguez. The Colombian playmaker seems to have rediscovered his mojo following his move to Goodison Park from Real Madrid, accumulating 3 goals and 2 assists in 4 PL outings for the Toffees.
Tasked with the job of shouldering Everton’s creative workload from the right-hand side of the pitch, the 29-year-old has had a transformative impact on Ancelotti’s side in the final third. And it will be interesting to see how the Colombian copes with the challenge of facing Andy Robertson, who is widely regarded as the best left-back in the PL.
Realistically, though, Liverpool will require a collective effort from their backline, as well as someone like Fabinho, to keep Rodriguez at bay. The Colombian starts on the right but tends to drift to the central areas of the pitch to pull the strings, with his mobility and tactical intelligence making him a very difficult player to mark.
2. Dominic Calvert-Lewin vs Virgil van Dijk
Van Dijk’s credentials as one of the best central defenders in the world have been called into question numerous times in what has so far been an inconsistent start to the season for the towering Dutchman.
The 29-year-old came under scrutiny for his blunder against Leeds United in Liverpool’s 4-3 win over the Whites in September and was amongst the worst players on the pitch for Klopp’s side as the Reds got thrashed 7-2 by Aston Villa.
On the contrary, one would struggle to find the right set of adjectives to describe Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s rise at Goodison Park this season. The 23-year-old, who netted 13 times in the PL last term, has really come to the fore with a stunning start to the ongoing campaign.
The ex-Sheffield United man currently tops the scoring charts in the PL with 6 goals in 4 games, with his red-hot form paving the way for a senior England debut during the international break.
Calvert-Lewin has been pivotal to Everton’s success with his aerial presence inside the box and smart hold-up play in front of goal, meaning van Dijk will need to be at the top of his game to stop the Everton man from finding the net on Saturday.
3. Mo Salah vs Lucas Digne
Liverpool’s world-class forward line is yet to hit top gear this season, but Mo Salah has certainly stamped his authority with his early goalscoring spree. The Egyptian kicked off with a hat-trick against Leeds United on the opening day and was one of the very few Liverpool players to come away with some credit in the 7-2 thrashing against Villa, bagging a brace in the process.
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Indeed, Salah hasn’t quite been at his sparkling best so far, but with 5 goals in 4 PL outings, he’s surely Liverpool’s most in-form attacker heading into the Merseyside derby. And we all know how difficult it is to keep him out of the game.
Lucas Digne has himself enjoyed a good start to the season but keeping a player of Salah’s calibre will be easier said than done. The Frenchman likes to drive forward and get into attacking positions at every opportunity, but it remains to be seen how he strikes a balance between his defensive and offensive responsibilities, considering the threat of Salah’s lightning pace.