Liverpool and Everton lock horns this weekend in the first Merseyside derby of the season.
With the two sides also recently drawn to meet each other next month in the FA Cup third round, Sunday’s Premier League clash will the first of three opportunities this campaign for wither of the two clubs to maintain local dominance.
Both sides have had their troubles this season, Liverpool’s defensive issues have been well publicisied but their form in front of goal makes them a formidable threat, while new Everton manager Sam Allardyce will be desperate to lay down an early marker as he settles into life as Ronald Koeman’s replacement at Goodison Park.
But when compared side-by-side, how to the two Merseyside rivals’ repsective starting elevens square up?
Simon Mignolet (Liverpool): While many have long made up their mind about the Liverpool keeper, his form in the last 12 months or so has generally been a vast improvement on what came before. Competition from Loris Karius has lit a fire under him and while he is still prone to the odd error, he is far more reliable these days. Jordan Pickford, meanwhile, has shown signed of promise but still has a long way to go before justifying the £30m Everton spent on him.
Seamus Coleman (Everton): Everton have badly missed Coleman’s leadership over the past nine months or so. On his day, the Irish international is one of the finest right-backs in the Premier League and his return can’t come soon enough for the Toffees.
Joel Matip (Liverpool): Arguably yet to hit the form he showed last season, Matip is still a vitally important player for Liverpool at the back. One gets the sense, however, that the Reds will only see the bet of him when he can relax with a defensive leader partnering him.
Ashley Williams (Everton): The Welsh international, like Matip, hasn’t impressed as much this year as he did last, but with greater focus on defence from Allardyce that will almost certainly improve. Williams will be needed to provide inspiration for a the next generation of young defenders.
Alberto Moreno (Liverpool): Like Mignolet, Moreno will never be able to win the minds of those that have already decided he is not good enough, but he has been one of Liverpool’s most consistent performers this season (apart from that second-half horror show in Seville). Will be missed this Sunday.
Emre Can (Liverpool): While speculation rages about Can’s contract situation, the German continues to prove how much Liverpool will miss him if he is allowed to leave. After a inconsistent few years at Anfield, Can now finally seems to be finding his form at at the club.
Idrissa Gueye (Everton): Everton’s defensive problems could have been far worse were it not for Gueye’s form. The Senegalese international has protected his back four as best he could, and should thrive in a more conservative style under Allardyce.
Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool): The Brazilan playmaker has had one of the best weeks of his Liverpool career, following up a strong performance in Saturday’s 5-1 win at Burnley with a hat-trick in the midweek 7-0 demolition of Spartak Moscow. Coutinho is thriving as part of Liverpool’s four-pronged attack and could make a huge difference on Sunday.
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool): 18 goals in 23 games says it all – the Egyptian has been a revelation since arriving at Anfield in the summer. His pace alone is enough to terrify teams and as soon as he gets the ball, Liverpool instantly feel like there is a chance coming.
Sadio Mane (Liverpool): Mane has tended to fly a bit under the radar this season due to Salah’s form, but the former Southampton man gave a timely reminder of his ability and importance with two goals on Wednesday night – the first of which was a brilliant net-busting volley. Like Salah, Mane’s pace bamboozles defence on almost evety occasion.
Roberto Firmino (Liverpool): The most underrated of Liverpool’s front four, and arguably one of the most underrated in the league. Firmino’s work-rate, vision and team ethic make him an unconventional centre-forward, and his improved goalscoring form has been a welcome addition to his game.
In this week’s episode of the Mixer Irish Football Podcast, We chat to former Limerick and Cork City striker John O’Flynn about his search for a new club, we discuss Robbie Brady’s injury and recap the latest LOI transfer news.