Liverpool head across Stanley Park for the Derby
I think I liked it better when these were barely an annoyance, but meant everything to Everton, and Liverpool would casually stride to three points before getting on to bigger and better things, leaving the blueshite to shout at the rain that not only were LFC better, but that they didn't even really matter.
Sadly, those times are gone.
Everton has started the season with a lightning bolt up their ass, losing only, strangely, to West Brom in their eight matches. They scalped United on the opening weekend, but since then the only "real" team they've played, arguably, was a 2-2 draw with Newcastle that came with no controversy whatsoever. But hey, if you beat the teams you're supposed to that means you're good, and we certainly can't make that claim, can we?
But you know how this works. The start to the season will mean nothing to them if it doesn't come with a home win over Liverpool. They need this to solidify their psyche, their place as Champions League challengers, to cement their standing over LFC. So yeah, should be a tame atmosphere then.
It's also going to be a unique test for Brendan Rodgers's philosophy, not just because he needs his first "big" win of his tenure. But he preaches the patient, sharp, and disciplined Death By Football. How's that going to go down in a fixture and ground where the ground might literally boil and Everton will be flying around with tackles and challenges from angles you wouldn't dream of. Can players still adjusting and still learning this keep their rag in that sort of cauldron? No way to know.
Selection dilemmas? There aren't too many. If Reina's fit, he'll start, but after the past two matches we're not quite as queasy about Brad Jones having to deputize. While I worry about Wisdom getting his third match in a week at what is still an unfamiliar position, that's probably likely. With the way Baines likes to bomb forward, you wonder if someone other than Suso will be preferred to help out the young right back, or if Enrique will be given a start to let Johnson deal with it.
Other than that, Shelvey is likely to replace Sahin with Allen and Gerrard. Sahin didn't really care for the physical pounding from Stoke, and this will be that on amphetamines. Might just be too much for him at this stage. Shelvey in this of course will be risking another red card with his....let's say "agricultural" style of tackling. But I'm betting he still gets the nod.
Suarez ad Sterling obviously are certs. Maybe Assaidi earned himself a start with his work on Thursday, but it seems a strange place to get one's first Premier League start. And as we know from the United match, Suso won't shrink from the occasion.
As for the BlueShite, Pienaar is suspended and there's questions over Fellaini and Hibbert. Fellaini is the second goal-threat behind Jelavic, so if he's out that would be a big loss. Everton will match Liverpool's three in midfield with Osman, Neville and either Fellaini or Heitinga. This will be a quagmire. Liverpool are going to have to move the ball quickly but smartly to get around what will be a snarling, drooling Everton midfield. But with the way Neville and the others move, it can be done.
Suarez has given Distin nightmares before, and he scored the last time he played on this ground. He'll savor the home crowd baying for his blood.
Well, it won't be fun but necessary. And it will tell us a lot about where Liverpool are now instead of say, a month ago. Oh, and a win would see Liverpool three points behind Arsenal and Everton in fourth. With as much stuttering and bumbling that marked the first third of the season, that kind of gap would mean a chase is definitely on.
This is also your thread. Have at it.