Liverpool can make a fast start against derby rivals Everton
Toffees may be vulnerable to rapid Reds
Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event, 12.30pm Saturday
With the Merseyside derby sandwiched between two massive Champions League quarter-final ties, this has got to be a good time to be taking on Liverpool. Then again, is there a bad time to be taking on Everton?
Punters need to weigh up whether Jurgen Klopp’s changes are sufficient to weaken the Reds for the trip across Stanley Park – and also just how weak do Liverpool have to be before they become vulnerable against a terrible Toffees.
The formbook says Liverpool all day long.
Everton haven’t tasted success in their last 16 Merseyside derbies, were pitifully poor in defeat by Manchester City last week and boast a record of no wins in 11 this season against the top six. And their best player, Gylfi Sigurdsson, is out.
Liverpool, in contrast, have lost only to Manchester United in their last 11 games and confidence must be through the roof after they put City to the sword in the Champions League on Wednesday night.
So any doubts over betting the visitors are based solely on the timing of the match and Klopp’s team selection.
The extraordinary Mo Salah, scorer of 29 goals in the league, is an injury concern and may not be risked ahead of their return tie in Manchester on Tuesday. Others, Sadio Mane and both full-backs most notably, could well be rested. While a top-four finish isn’t set in stone it’s virtually booked and Klopp can pick his team accordingly.
The fact that this is the Merseyside derby and all the parochial baggage that goes with it, ought to mean very little to Klopp. The Champions League next week, however, means everything.
The one occasion Klopp made wholesale team changes was at Leicester in the League Cup and they lost despite being much the better team.
Everton are better at Goodison than on the road – they’ve won seven of their last 11 in the league in front of their own fans, losing only to both Manchester clubs in that time.
Sam Allardyce will focus on organisation over endeavour and pray that he can pull off a result similar to the lucky 1-1 draw he secured at Anfield in December, a match in which the Blues had just 21 per cent possession and three shots, 18 fewer than Liverpool.
Idrissa Gueye’s return to bolster central midfield should help make them more stable through the middle where Morgan Schneiderlin and Wayne Rooney were abject liabilities defensively against City a week ago.
Cenk Tosun has got four goals in his last four games but is no Romelu Lukaku and he may not see much of the ball anyway. Liverpool don't have many options in central defence because Klopp has injuries to cover.
This is tough to call. Liverpool at close to evens against a team outside the top six is hard to resist. But if Klopp leaves out four or five of his stars, including the sensational Salah, it all looks different. Team selection is going to be crucial.
If Everton look to stay tight (in contrast to what happened last week) expect Liverpool to come on strong and take an early lead. They have led at half-time in 16 of their top-flight assignments this season.
Liverpool to win first half
1pt 31-20 Coral, Ladbrokes
Idrissa Gueye is fit. Ashley Williams returns from a ban. Gylfi Sigurdsson, James McCarthy, Eliaquim Mangala and Mason Holgate are out.
Emre Can and Joel Matip are out, and Mo Salah (groin) may not be risked. Joe Gomez, Ragnar Klavan, Adam Lallana and Ben Woodburn are crocked.
Everton have picked up three points out of a possible 33 against the top six.
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