The Merseyside Derby : Everton v Liverpool
Everton have to make one change as Jagielka sits out with a ban, being replaced by Ramiro Funes Mori in a small weakening. Barry likely returns for McCarthy in midfield in the only other change, with Koeman looking to build on their win over Arsenal with a settled side. Bolasie is the only notable absentee through injury, being out long term, which is a blow to their threat on the break. They’ll be a bit more confident after a midweek win, so will head into the game with Liverpool fancying their chances of another victory that would really boost the atmosphere around the club. Motivation won’t be in question, but they are under pressure to end a run of just one win in 19 against their rivals. They’ll only be happy with a win, but a draw would suit them a little more than Liverpool. They enjoy open games, but without Bolasie their ability to stretch the game becomes a little limited. Lukaku will pose a real threat and they’ll aim to make a quick start to get the fans onside, however if they fall behind the game plan could go out the window as the match opens up. They have goals in them, but to win they may need to get the opener, giving them more control of the tempo.
Everton gave themselves a lift by taking a win over Arsenal last time out, a result that halted a five game win-less streak. They’ll head into the derby with improved confidence, particularly with home form having been decent, being on a five game unbeaten stretch at Goodison Park. Their derby record with Liverpool is fairly poor, having won just one of the last 19 meetings. They have managed a number of draws in that period though, particularly at home, so they won’t see themselves as real underdogs. They’re treating it as a standalone fixture and are only interested in a win. Ronald Koeman has insisted the game is all about winning for the supporters, giving them some positivity over Christmas by beating their closest neighbours. Motivation won’t be in short supply, though it’s a high pressure atmosphere, so keeping cool heads will be essential.
Liverpool have a few injury concerns as Matip, Sturridge, Can and Origi are all doubts, with only Matip really struggling and not being expected to be available. All will have fitness tests, but Origi should be fine to keep his place in the line-up as an unchanged 11 looks likely once more. Matip is replaced by Klavan in a slight weakening, while Mignolet continues in goal for the dropped Karius. They’re under pressure to take a win and keep pace with Chelsea at the top of the table, so anything but three points won’t satisfy in the local derby. They’ll feel confident in their ability to take the game to Everton and win, but they’ll be a bit more balanced than usual, not wanting to fall behind early and have to chase. They suit open games and will feel they have the attack to get a win. They wouldn’t stop looking for goals if they did get ahead, with the defence struggling for clean sheets in general, despite one in the previous game. They’d not let up as they try and produce a very strong showing for their supporters to put the game beyond their opponents. Midfield runs from deep are a weapon that can cause real problems, and even if they did go behind, they’d still look to win.
The atmosphere around Liverpool remains very positive as they head into the derby on the back of a strong showing at Middlesbrough midweek. They’re still in the title race but are under more pressure with Chelsea’s win on Saturday, making three points from the local derby crucial. Liverpool do enjoy a good record in the derby, but have found wins harder to come by away from home, however it won’t stop them making the short trip with plenty of belief that they are capable of victory. Anything less would be viewed as a disappointment to their title push. Motivation will be very high as they try and keep pace at the top, but they certainly won’t be taking Everton for granted. Liverpool will feel they have the quality edge and are more confident coming into the game, but applying that to the pitch in a pressure environment could be decisive.
Betting Prediction: Over 2.75 goals
Odds: 2.06 SBOBET
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