Liverpool v Everton: FA Cup clash could prove a debut derby with Van Dijk and Tosun in line to feature
Merseyside rivals face each other at Anfield on Friday in the third round and a pair of new faces could be making their first appearances.
It may yet be the debut derby. As Liverpool and Everton meet, it is with eagerly-anticipated arrivals potentially making their bows in the most pressurised on environments.
Neighbours may both have revolving doors. While newcomers could be introduced, others may be bidding farewell. And not from the pitch either.
Jurgen Klopp is considering starting Virgil van Dijk, his new £75 million (Dh373m) centre-back. Sam Allardyce hopes Cenk Tosun will become his £27m centre-forward in time to figure.
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Yet Philippe Coutinho is injured and, judging from Klopp’s words, likelier to join Barcelona. Allardyce was similarly downbeat about his prospects of keeping Ross Barkley. Liverpool will be without Mohamed Salah as well as Coutinho.
“Mo and Phil are not big injuries; it’s only a week,” Klopp said. The difference is that their top scorer’s return is certain to be in a red shirt. The Brazilian’s may not.
“There is nothing to say that would help me or the player or the club,” added his manager. “All the things I could say would only create stories so I have nothing to say about it.”
If Coutinho may yet be the world’s second costliest player, its most expensive defender, Van Dijk, could figure. “I can imagine everyone is desperate to see him on the pitch but for us there's no rush,” Klopp said. “It's not decided yet.”
There is the potential for one new signing to mark another. Turkey international Tosun should be the belated replacement for Romelu Lukaku that Everton required in the summer, when they failed in attempts to sign Olivier Giroud.
"We've agreed a deal and are at the stage of personal terms. Hopefully, we might be able to get him registered in time to play,” Allardyce said. The 26-year-old, scorer of 14 goals for Besiktas and his country this season, represents the sort of seasoned striker Everton lack.
Barkley will probably never form part of his supply line. The midfielder is out of contract at the end of this season, when a serious hamstring injury means he is yet to feature.
“The club was resigned before I got here that they were going to lose Ross," Allardyce said. "I can’t see that changing.”
Everton were unadventurous at Anfield last month, when they were fortunate to emerge with a 1-1 draw. Allardyce has promised a more adventurous approach in the rematch.
“We are in the position where we go for it,” he said. “It’s not a league game, there are no points available. It’s win or bust. It’s as simple as that.”
Klopp, who has fielded weakened teams in the FA Cup in the last two seasons, suggested winning is more of an imperative for him. “It will be the strongest line-up,” he said, though Loris Karius will replace Simon Mignolet in goal.
There will be no Alberto Moreno or Jordan Henderson, who should be available again next weekend, while Everton are likely to be without Michael Keane as they look for a first victory at Anfield since 1999.
It is a reason why Liverpool are favourites. Liverpool have not won the FA Cup since 2006, Everton have not won it since 1995. Three decades ago, when they contested two FA Cup finals, they were the two best teams in the country and won seven successive league titles.
Now Liverpool have one trophy in 12 years. Everton’s 23-year drought is the second lengthiest in their history and the only longer one included the Second World War.
Now sights are set on ending the wait. “We all know how desperate our supporters are to get something,” Klopp said. “But I cannot win the FA Cup in a press conference. We have to prove it on the pitch.”
Updated: January 4, 2018 07:00 PM