Phillip Buckley

What: English Premier League
Who: Everton vs Liverpool
When: Sunday 17th October, 2010, at 13:30 UK Time
Where: Goodison Park, Liverpool, England

Getting into their Stride

Everton appeared burdened by the weight of expectation when the new season began. The blue half of Merseyside believed that David Moyes, with a fully fit squad, would have them competing at the right end of the table. Yet their start was sluggish to say the least. Moyes appeared baffled by a high quality squad without injuries and suddenly the Scot had a puzzle to solve and a jigsaw to fit together. Now though, there are signs that Everton are finding some form, maybe as injuries have bitten and selection has been more straightforward. Their epic comeback, via two injury time goals against Manchester United here was a warning to anyone who believes a trip to Goodison is straightforward and a win away at Birmingham before the international break was an impressive result.

Moyes though is keen not to pile too much pressure onto the game, arguing it is not, despite both clubs looking to climb up the table, critical. "I don’t think anyone would expect Liverpool to be in this position come the end of the season", said the Scot, "just like I don’t think people would expect Everton to be in this position." Asked though whether the Merseyside derby represented a big three points for the club Moyes replied: "It can only ever be three points, whether it’s a big three points or a small three points. That’s all you ever get for a win."

The NESV-powered Feel-good Factor

Liverpool come into the Merseyside derby off the back of a massive week off the pitch. Finally the club have rid themselves of American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, and the large chunk of debt the duo brought along with them through their 2007 takeover. Legal wrangles have raged throughout the week as Hicks and Gillett tried to keep hold of the club through ever possible means, eventually accepting defeat. New owners, New England Sports Ventures (NESV) have placed no acquisition debt on the club and suddenly the Reds’ position has been transformed.

This now places the spotlight very firmly on manager Roy Hodgson, who has led Liverpool to a truly appalling start in the Premier League. While there is a feel-good factor around Anfield and the Liverpool squad is buzzing with excitement, this will only continue if Hodgson can channel that positivity into displays on the pitch. Six points from seven league games is not good enough for Liverpool and a home defeat to Blackpool in their last fixture was considered disgraceful. Luckily for Hodgson, the NESV takeover represents a new start. He has to get things right – and quickly.


Recent form

Brentford 1-1 Everton (21/09; League Cup)
Fulham 0-0 Everton (25/09; Premier League)
Birmingham 0-2 Everton (02/10; Premier League)

Liverpool 2-2 Sunderland (25/09; Premier League)
FC Utrecht 0-0 Liverpool (30/09; Europa League)
Liverpool 1-2 Blackpool (03/10; Premier League)

Key absences

Everton: Marouane Fellaini; Phil Jagielka (doubt); Steven Pienaar; Louis Saha (doubt); Jack Rodwell; Victor Anichebe

Liverpool: Dirk Kuyt; Daniel Agger (doubt); Fabio Aurelio (doubt)

Players to watch

Everton – Tim Cahill: The Australian midfielder always gives one hundred per cent, but against Liverpool he seems even hungrier than normal. Cahill knows the importance of Merseyside derbies and has found the back of the net three times in the Premier League already this season. The 30-year-old is mobile and has a great chance of winning any battle with Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher, who has been found wanting in the air of late, an area in which the Everton man excels.

Liverpool – Steven Gerrard: Gerrard will be delighted to have seen new owners arrive at Anfield and should be full of confidence. The midfielder was part of a poor England performance in midweek against Montenegro, but it is impossible to know how much he was affected by the legal battles taking place over his beloved Liverpool. A Merseyside derby is made for Gerrard though, and he can be counted on to step up and compete.

Match prediction

Neither side has hit the ground running so far this season and while Everton appear to be improving slowly, they are still fragile. Liverpool on the other hand should be given a confidence boost from the NESV takeover, but it should not be forgotten that they have been poor on the pitch recently. A scrappy game is expected and neither side will take all three points. A 1-1 draw looks a realistic outcome.