The first Merseyside derby of the season is set to get underway with the two teams in very contrasting forms of late.
Hosts Everton are sliding down the table dangerously with no wins and five defeats in their last seven matches. Rafa Benitez, who actually started the season in brilliant fashion, winning four of the first five is now feeling his seat get considerably hotter.
😡 “The Everton fans are getting to the end of their tether with it.”
😳 “You have to face the repercussions of poor performances.”
⌛️ “The squad’s better than where they are, and he won’t get much longer.”
— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) November 29, 2021
Their latest loss came to newly promoted Brentford, despite the Toffees having 60% of the ball and 14 shots to the Bees’ six. The main problem for Everton has been they have been hampered by injuries to key players including Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Yerry Mina, Andre Gomes and Tom Davies.
🗣"The problem is we have our key players injured."
Rafael Benitez shares his reasoning to why Everton haven't been on their best form pic.twitter.com/INhl9LFbb4
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) November 25, 2021
So, it is not the best prospect to play their dearest rivals right now, and that too after recent events.
Liverpool have scored eight goals in their last two Premier League games, hitting Arsenal and Southampton for four each. Jurgen Klopp’s side are the top scorers with 39 goals, with Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota all in the Golden Boot mix.
Mo Salah for Liverpool this season:
👕 17 appearances
⚽️ 17 goals
🅰️ 6 assists
Exceptional form! 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/Iv34oMlu1h
— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) November 25, 2021
Salah’s scintillating form has been extremely well supplemented by the attacking prowess of Mane and even with Roberto Firmino injured, there is no slowing them down. The returns of Thiago and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have been welcome additions as they provide more creativity and influence in the midfield along with the league’s most in-form defensive assistant Trent Alexander-Arnold.
The top three Premier League goalscorers all play for Liverpool 😮💨 pic.twitter.com/dE22MeGSnI
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) November 27, 2021
The Reds will relish meeting their beleaguered opponents and putting a fair few goals past them as well.
The match will also have a major undercurrent of tension and familiarity with Liverpool’s Champions League winning boss Benitez now in the opposing dugout.
Apart from the absences already mentioned, Mason Holgate is also out as he continues to serve his suspension. Demarai Gray might get the nod from the start in place of Alex Iwobi.
PROBABLE LINE-UP: Pickford; Coleman, Godfrey, Keane, Digne; Gordon, Allan, Doucoure, Townsend; Gray; Rondon
Alongside Firmino, Curtis Jones and Naby Keita remain the other first-team casualties.
PROBABLE LINE-UP: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Matip, Robertson; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabinho, Thiago; Mane, Jota, Salah
For the Toffees, it is really hard to pick someone who can impact a game of this magnitude currently. But their biggest threat against Brentford came down the right flank and that is where Gray can come in handy. Three goals and two assists might not look much but his confidence is back which will be much needed.
Demarai Gray has now scored as many league goals in four games this season (3) as he managed in his last two league campaigns combined.
Finding his feet. 👊 pic.twitter.com/FbbmU8M3OQ
— William Hill (@WilliamHill) September 13, 2021
Gray’s pace and quickness in running with the ball means if the passes can be made over the top of the defence or even in between the lines, there could be some sizeable danger. Furthermore, with Abdoulaye Doucoure back and Anthony Gordon showing great promise, Everton can feel they have a good chance in front of goal.
Diogo Jota in the Premier League this season:
👕 12 appearances [10 starts]
⚽️ 6 goals
🅰️ 1 assist
Slotted into that LFC attack so well. 🇵🇹 l pic.twitter.com/vnQchrztSG
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) November 27, 2021
In comparison, Liverpool’s front three have been on fire all season and it is really hard to pinpoint anyone of them out. But the man in red hot form, Jota, has settled in very nicely. Seven goals and one assist, including three strikes in his past two games. With Salah and Mane manning the flanks, Jota has been finding some great passes into him.
Diogo Jota's shot map gets funnier with every match. pic.twitter.com/U3uYMSxgld
— Sam McGuire (@SamMcGuire90) November 27, 2021
Yes, they still need to be finished off which has been happening well so far. He gives more mobility and sharpness as compared to Firmino who is more of a target man. Given the fact that Everton’s defence are missing two key pieces, he will have a lot of joy on the ground to get shots away at goal.
There is little doubt as to who enters the match as overwhelming favorites. Liverpool are sitting two points behind leaders Chelsea and know they cannot afford slip-ups. Meanwhile, Everton are in dire need of a win to uplift the mood around the club. Can Benitez spoil his former team’s hope enroute to a shock win? Unlikely. FootTheBall predicts a 2-0 win for the Reds.