Merseyside derby beckons at Anfield

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Liverpool's Joe Allen in action against Everton's Leighton Baines. Pic © David Rawcliffe/Propaganda

Liverpool’s Joe Allen in action against Everton’s Leighton Baines. Pic © David Rawcliffe/Propaganda

Liverpool and Everton are set to lock horns at Anfield this weekend knowing a win for either side in the first Merseyside derby of the season can put to bed their recent runs of poor form.

Aside from wanting to hold the bragging rights over their bitter rivals, both clubs are desperate for the three points at stake this Saturday, in order to start building momentum after their substandard starts to the 2014-15 campaign.

The Reds currently have one more point to their name than Everton and have already got some of the big venues from the 38-game grind out of the way, in the shape of Manchester City and Tottenham.

However, other than Liverpool’s excellent 3-0 win away at Spurs, Brendan Rodgers’ side haven’t boasted the same clinical rhythm up top that they had at their disposal last season, and have lost three of their last four league games.

Everton, on the other hand, have registered just one win – against West Brom – and have been their own worst enemies so far after numerous individual errors in the defensive department have cost the Blues in terms of their points return.

Roberto Martinez’s men have maintained their sparkle going forward from last term, scoring 11 goals in the process, but defensively they have been shoddy, and the same can be said about Liverpool in that respect, too.

No fewer than 21 league goals have been conceded by the derby duo after five top flight games, and it is proving difficult to establish that perfect balance between sustaining the attacking football each manager preaches while maintaining defensive solidity that both clubs are still looking for.

It was the exuberant, dynamic approach that both Merseyside clubs displayed last season which made the two derby meetings so special. Die-hard fans and neutrals watched with baited breath as Everton and Liverpool played out a classic 3-3 draw at Goodison Park back in November last year.

The return match at Anfield in January wasn’t just any Merseyside derby.

Gaining an initiative in the race for Champions League football was the prize on offer that night, and it was Liverpool who didn’t just grasp that opportunity but throttled it with a magnificent 4-0 win over the Toffees, to the delight of the red half of the city.

Everyone will be hoping this weekend will produce similar thrills once more, although both teams have prepared for the upcoming clash in far from ideal circumstances.

Liverpool needed a record-equalling 14-13 penalty shoot-out to squeeze past Middlesbrough in the Capital One Cup after a 2-2 extra-time draw on Tuesday evening, while Everton were convincingly beaten 3-0 away at Swansea City .

The opportunity for a derby clash in the cup was passed up when the Swans were then drawn to face Liverpool in the next round.

For now, another pulsating Merseyside showdown is on the immediate horizon, with Liverpool looking to stretch their dominance over Everton on home soil further still.

The Blues will be hoping that the date – September 27, the last time the Blues won at Anfield back in 1999 – is an anniversary they can celebrate by ending a long victory drought.

About Matthew Judge, JMU Journalism