x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Premier League: Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton lacks title spotlight

Liverpool hosts Everton in a battle for sixth position in the table as Ricard Jolly breaks down an in-depth comparison between the rivals.

Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge has picked up the scoring slack for his team since the suspension of Luis Suarez. AP Photo
Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge has picked up the scoring slack for his team since the suspension of Luis Suarez. AP Photo

There was a time when being crowned champions of Merseyside often meant a side was officially England's finest. No longer. But as Liverpool and Everton battle for both bragging rights and sixth position, which side is the city's best?

Last meeting

Honours finished even with a 2-2 draw at Goodison Park in October, following a flurry of four first-half goals. However, it wasn't quite as simple as that. Liverpool pointed out that a legitimate "winner" from Luis Suarez was wrongly ruled offside.

Everton were aggrieved that Suarez was still on the pitch after tackles on Kevin Mirallas and Sylvain Distin that were both worth a minimum of a yellow card and potentially more.

League position

Everton appear in a commanding position. They have been above Liverpool in the table throughout the season, and their advantage is five points with only three games to go.

However, they have to visit Stamford Bridge to play Chelsea, as well as Anfield, and if they lose both away matches Liverpool can leapfrog their neighbours with victories over Fulham and Queens Park Rangers.

Attack

A clear win for Liverpool, who have 67 goals to Everton's 52. The difference may be summed up by the contrasting fortunes of the prolific Suarez and the profligate Nikica Jelavic this season.

Suarez is suspended for Sunday's game, but Liverpool have nine goals in the two league games he has missed. Having scored three goals in a game 10 times since December, they are more capable of thrashing opponents.

Defence

Liverpool have more clean sheets (14, a total bettered only by Manchester City) but Everton have conceded four fewer goals and have let in only three in their past seven games, they also have the better recent record.

Both have suffered from a decline in form from last season's player of the year, with Martin Skrtel and Johnny Heitinga both losing their place. Yet while the rest of the Everton back four have performed admirably, Liverpool's performances have been more mixed. Daniel Agger has underperformed while, behind the defence, Pepe Reina has had a second successive poor season.

Consistency

Advantage Everton. Only the two Manchester clubs have lost fewer games than Everton, beaten only six times this season and on just eight occasions in 53 league games. However, with 14 draws this season, their games also finish level more often than anyone else's.

After a slow start, Liverpool are beginning to win more consistently with 11 victories in 21 league matches, the majority by big margins.

Talent

Liverpool's most gifted player, Suarez, is banned. However, the two January additions, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge, showed their ability in last week's 6-0 thrashing of Newcastle United and Steven Gerrard is masterful in derbies.

Everton have one of the few left-backs who can be called a match-winner, in Leighton Baines, plus his sidekick Steven Pienaar, the idiosyncratic Marouane Fellaini and the unpredictable Mirallas.

Performance level

How many players have genuinely had a good season? Over a topsy-turvy campaign at Anfield, perhaps only a few. At Goodison Park, however, most of Everton's probable starters have acquitted themselves well.

For Seamus Coleman and Victor Anichebe, it has been a breakthrough year. Leon Osman and Phil Jagielka have been quietly consistent. Fellaini and Baines have been the headline acts.

Spending

If there is little to separate the teams, there is a huge difference in the transfer market. Brendan Rodgers spent around £45 million (Dh257m) on Fabio Borini, Joe Allen, Sturridge and Coutinho, even though he reduced the wage bill with the departures of Dirk Kuyt, Craig Bellamy, Maxi Rodriguez, Charlie Adam and, on loan, Andy Carroll.

Meanwhile, Everton, largely because of the sale of Jack Rodwell, are in the black in terms of their dealings in the past 12 months.

History

It favours Liverpool. David Moyes has never won at Anfield as a manager and, while Everton were sixth to their eighth last season, they have not finished ahead of their neighbours in successive seasons for half a century.

Liverpool v Everton match-up information

Key Battle

Philippe Coutinho v Seamus Coleman Coutinho, who plays a deadly through ball, works mostly on the left. Right-back Coleman will have to deny him time and space to pick a pass.

Previous meetings Everton have not won in their past 12 league visits to Anfield.

Line-ups (probable)

Liverpool (4-5-1) Reina; Johnson, Agger, Carragher, Enrique; Lucas, Gerrard, Henderson, Downing, Coutinho; Sturridge. Everton (4-4-2) Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Gibson, Fellaini, Osman, Pienaar; Mirallas, Anichebe

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