Liverpool: Keep Lukaku Quiet, Smash Everton & Go Top Of The League
It's quiet up here at the moment in Liverpool. Too quiet. It's almost as though we've hit a period of phoney war where everybody is aware that there is a conflict ahead but nobody seems prepared to talk about it.
Which is odd given that in terms of league interest this weekend provides us with the most important Derby match in, well, decades really.
Liverpool can go back to the top if the league on Saturday (can I just say that again please? Liverpool. Can. Go. BACK. To. The. Top. Of. The. League. I do love that sentence) simply by beating Everton at Goodison. I mean, we like beating Everton anyway and we're not overly bothered where but it's always more fun to do it at their place. That a victory would send us back to the top of the table? The Evertonians discomfort could possibly be more enjoyable than the achievement itself.
Which is probably why there's so little talk of the match; there's too much riding on this one, the idea of losing the match is too hideous for either set of fans to contemplate. Our potential enjoyment could only be surpassed by the Bluenoses' opportunity for joy at preventing us from climbing to the top of the table.
In August the idea that the season's first Merseyside Derby, arriving as it does in late November, would see both teams with genuine top four ambitions and one of the two sitting in second place would have been laughable but here we are; both teams performing well, both playing good football (if on a slightly inconsistent basis), both in form.
Which troubles that old cliche; if 'the form book goes out the window' in the Derby (let's restate that a little; THE Derby, all others are shallow pretenders) then what happens when both teams are in form?
Both managers are in the process of rebuilding their team in their own image, both espouse a philosophy of possession (Everton having achieved over 70% at times this season), both aim to play football the right way; Liverpool, luckily for us, are one year further down that road than our neighbours.
Roberto Martinez is changing the way that the Toffees play; no longer likely to perform in Moyes' workmanlike, attritional manner but equally likely to be lacking in the fear factor that the current Manchester United manager instilled in his previous charges every time that they saw a red shirt.
What Everton lack at the moment is a consistently credible goal threat. When Lukaku is on his game and receiving plentiful supply he is virtually unplayable; choke that supply and he's wandering around up top on his own. Liverpool, on the other hand, have Suarez (on John Henry's private jet as I write to ensure his speedy return from Uruguay's needless second leg qualifier) and Sturridge in the form of their life. We have Coutinho to provide their supply. Quite simply we have three men to terrify Jagielka, Distin and Gareth Barry (who may find the opposition fans remember that he turned us down in favour of City's salary structure); not the youngest, not the fastest central line on Earth.
I'm not even going to hazard a guess as to what defensive/midfield arrangement that Brendan has in mind, the permutations are endless and endlessly changeable. The joy is that Rodgers has had that extra year imprinting his style on the squad, that he has experimented with the playing system, that his 'in game' management is generally excellent, that he simply has more options than Martinez has at the moment and can win the game on the strength of the creativity and free scoring of his front three.
Right. Both teams playing 4-2-3-1 and a stultifying 0-0 draw it is then.
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