The 228th Merseyside derby is only another few days wait, continuing one of the longest rivalries in the history of football and one of the most highly anticipated days in the city. It’s been a bitter pill to swallow that it has been 7 years now since Everton’s last victory over their rivals, Mikel Arteta connecting beautifully to a bouncing ball, smashing home at the park end to complete a 2-0 victory. They were managed under Roy Hodgson at the time, a little bit traumatic if you ask me. I don’t even want to mention our last win at Anfield… No let’s not mention that. On Saturday it’ll be battle once again, so here is the preview.
The Gaffer: Jurgen Klopp (Win Ration – 49%)
As a fan of the Bundesliga, watching Klopp’s teams were certainly an absolute joy and admittedly, I am a fan of Klopp’s ideology. After an 11 year playing career at Mainz, he was appointed manager of the club in 2001. In his 7-year stay, he lead the O-Fives their first ever Bundesliga season and Qualified for Europe in the 2005-2006 campaign. The next season however, Mainz were relegated and after the 07-08 season had concluded, Klopp resigned after failing to lead Mainz back into the first division.
In the same year, Klopp would be appointed as manager of Borussia Dortmund, finishing in 6th and 5th in his first two campaigns. In that time he managed to produce a fantastic attacking force of Mario Gotze, Robert Lewandowski and Lucas Barrios, which won Dortmund two consecutive Bundesliga titles. In the 2012-13 season, Klopp took his Dortmund side to the Champions League final for the 2nd time in their history, losing to rivals Bayern Munich 2-1 at Wembley. In the 14-15 campaign, he announced he’d leave at the end of the season after a horrific start to the season; his last game was the DFB-Pokal Final, being smashed 3-1 by VfL Wolfsburg.
In October 2015, Klopp joined Liverpool replacing Brendan Rodgers. In his first season he took Liverpool to the League Cup final and Europa League final, losing both of them matches.
Liverpool Tactical Analysis: Formation + Style of Play
Those who watch Klopp’s team know their play is based around one word, “Gegenpress.” To define, this is immediately pressing up the field to win the ball back and stop the counter attack. For the first few months of the season, this has worked to perfection, but in recent times it has stalled against teams such as Hull City and Leicester City. Against the big clubs however, it’s a work of art.
Against Arsenal, Liverpool gained back possession in very high positions up the pitch. This is a very good map to look at if you’re a fan of the press.
When having the ball, Liverpool aim to keep it as long as possible, not just in their own half but controlling the game in the oppositions. They have contained an average possession percentage of 57% this season, only Man City have contained more (58%). They’ve completed more passes than any other team, Jordan Henderson contributing the most.
In terms of a formation, Klopp starts his sides in a 433 and that hasn’t changed throughout the campaign. Coutinho, Firmino and Mane are usually the front three and all of them contain very good ratings in pressing the play. Lallana (who is unavailable on Saturday) and Wijnaldum are also big contributors to the press.
Although they create a lot of chances, Liverpool has really lacked from having a plan B and also a struggling defence – only West Ham have made more defensive errors leading to a goal than our Mersey opponents.
The Match Preview
The first 45 minutes of our last encounter was really well controlled by us, even though the game really lacked in terms of the amount of shots on goal. However, it turned out just to be a good 45 minutes and that’s it, we were dominated and looked like we were the away team in this case.
As you can see, our expected goal rating never really increases whilst Liverpool looked more and more likely to score against us. They worked into our box very well and scored the winner in the 94th minute of the game. For a victory at Anfield, we need to open Lukaku into the game. In the past couple of occasions, he’s had the presence but has been let down from a severe lack of creators in the side.
However in recent times, one player has done this, and that man is Ross Barkley. For the first time in about 3 seasons of working with each other, we have finally seen Barkley actually creating for his strike partner. A big part of this is from his development from a free roam playermaker to a much more structured one and playing on the right next to Lukaku has upped his goal contribution massively in recent times (this is why I wouldn’t have him drop back into midfield).
In our last encounter at Goodison Park, the game plan was the long ball to Lukaku and it failed horrifically. Barkley never linked with Lukaku – Stekelenburg had more contribution and that is no word of a lie, Idrissa Gueye was left isolated in midfield and Aaron Lennon’s involvement was barely recognisable.
The long ball tactic doesn’t work especially without Gareth Barry or Morgan Schneiderlin in the team. Stick to what we’ve done recently – opening up Lukaku more direct than from distance – and we can beat Liverpool. There is certainly a glass ceiling that we haven’t broken, mentally we all change and expect Everton not to do it. This is what happened away to Spurs a few weeks ago, having been 3 months unbeaten and then playing like it was the last days of the Martinez era.
Liverpool oppose a huge threat when pressing, something we struggled to handle away to Tottenham. Gareth Barry will be exposed if he starts in midfield against a younger, fresher, faster attacking force.
Overall, this is a huge game for both sides, not only for status in the city but also for where they are going to finish in the league this season. A win for Liverpool will increase their chances of reaching the top 4 and Champions League football will be guaranteed. A win for Everton will continue the rise of Koeman’s team and hopefully gatecrash the top six party, maybe even go further than that.
Liverpool predicted line-up (433): Mignolet, Clyne, Milner, Matip, Klavan, Can, Coutinho, Wijnaldum, Mane, Origi, Firmino.
Everton predicted line-up (433): Robles, Holgate, Baines, Williams, Jagielka, Barry, Gueye, Davies, Barkley, Mirallas, Lukaku.
Conclusion and Prediction
Nothing is bigger than the Merseyside derby for Everton at this moment in time. Seven years without a win is way to long without a victory, let alone 18 years since a victory at Anfield. It can be done, Everton can do it. If Lukaku turns up like he has done in recent weeks and the creativity is there from Barkley and Mirallas, we can win. I’m awful at making predictions, and the two I’ve made this season have both turned out completely wrong, so I am going to believe in superstition and go for a draw, hoping that it could flip into an Everton win, or it could back fire. Lets bloody go.
Prediction: Liverpool 1-1 Everton.
Stats via 11tegen11, whoscored and squawka.
UP THE TOFFEES