As the international break comes to an end, Everton fans turn their attention to the most important game of the season so far: the 235th Merseyside derby.
It is now ten tears since Everton won a Premier League derby, a truly terrible recent run that Blues fans will be desperate for this current team to end on Saturday.
In fact it was on 17th October 2010, which will be exactly ten years ago to the day when the teams line up to face each other this weekend, that the Toffees last claimed a derby victory over the eternal enemy across Stanley Park. Lets hope that’s a good omen.
This writer was at that game and as I left Goodison Park that afternoon even in my worst nightmares I never imaged we would still be waiting a decade later for another win over the Reds.
That derby also marked the beginning of the American FSG’s ownership of Liverpool, which has seen them successfully re-build, eventually bringing in Jurgen Klopp and culminated in last season’s Premier League title win.
At the time of that derby in 2010 it seemed it would be Everton who were the more likely of the Merseyside clubs to progress and achieve something over the next few seasons.
However, it was not to be, as just three years later David Moyes had gone without ever having managed to fulfill those hopes and bring the Toffees a trophy.
Then came a series of ultimately unsuccessful managerial changes and despite the buy-out of Farhad Moshiri and his heavy transfer spending, just six months ago the Blues were listless and adrift and further behind their neighbours than at any time since the early eighties.
In December, after the Marco Silva era had ended appropriately and ignominiously with a humiliating 5-2 derby defeat at Anfield, Carlo Ancelotti walked through the gates at Goodison Park to become Everton manager.
Finally the Blues had a coach with the credentials and profile to match the ambition and the financial power of Moshiri. Could this combination finally revive the sleeping giant that is Everton Football Club?
The later half of the 2019-20 campaign wasn’t an unqualified success though and after a significant early revival things turned sour again after the season resumed following lockdown.
There seemed so much work to do to turn the team’s fortunes around. Would Ancelotti be able to bring in the players he wanted and needed to make the Blues competitive again in what was obviously a crucial transfer window?
Well he got those players in as Everton enjoyed a cracking transfer window and Ancelotti went into this season with a totally revamped midfield as well as one of the world’s most high-profile attacking stars in James Rodriguez.
Now after an almost unbelievably good start to the current season, the Toffees are top of the league and following Liverpool’s 7-2 humiliation at Aston Villa before the international break, go into the derby possibly as slight favourites – how times change!
The Reds are hurting after that thrashing and will be desperate to avoid a similar result in the derby. If they defend like they did against Villa then the Toffees will surely get goals.
Everton are sweating on a few possible injury concerns particularly Seamus Coleman, Yerry Mina and now Lucas Digne, but fingers crossed will have a fully fit squad to choose from going into Saturday’s match.
So that being the case the Blues will presumably line up in the 4-3-3/4-5-1 formation that has served them so well this season.
Allan and Abdolaye Doucoure will be back to control midfield and Rodriguez to pull the strings in attack alongside Richarlison and Europe’s hottest striker; Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
As for Liverpool they will likely have Sadio Mane and Thaigo Alcantara able to return after their Covid enforced isolation. So apart from Allison still missing in goal, they will be basically back to full strength as well.
I would think that although they were exposed defensively and very deservedly beaten by Villa, that result was a bit of a freak one and with Mane and Thiago back, Liverpool will surely be a more dangerous prospect.
They do though give opponents chances if you can get enough quality ball and have the players who can exploit the vulnerability of their full-backs in particular. Everton now have those players.
One thing that will be crucial is for Jordan Pickford not to make one of his trademark clangers in this game! However, he might well have a psychological problem against these opponents, as it seems do a number of other squad players. Saturday is a great chance for him to slay that dragon.
On the other hand, the Toffees do have a number of new players in their team now with no baggage of derby day defeats.
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Being unusually optimistic before this game, Everton couldn’t have wanted a better run-up or more positive momentum going into one of these matches than they have now.
Ancelotti also has a very good record against Klopp and he just might pull an unexpected tactical change on Saturday too.
October has historically been a successful month for the Blues in derby games. One of Everton’s most famous wins over their neighbours came at Anfield in October 1984.
That day a Graeme Sharp screamer earned the Toffees a 1-0 win at the defending league champions and gave notice Everton were serious about competing for the title.
They went on to win it of course in record-breaking style. A repeat of that result and that season’s outcome, would do very nicely indeed!