Player Zone: Idrissa Gueye can bring fire back to the Merseyside derby

Everton claimed a hugely important win this week as they emerged 3-0 victors over relegation candidates Cardiff – the three points meant the Toffees have surely put their woeful run of form behind them and hopefully now they can kick on and push for the seventh place finish they will be craving.

Gylfi Sigurdsson (2) and Dominic Calvert-Lewin were on target for Marco Silva’s side, who stepped up to ease growing pressure on Marco Silva with a diligent and defensively sound performance.

Whenever the Goodison Park outfit keep a clean sheet, it is rare that Idrissa Gueye hasn’t had a hand in the denial of their opponents – the Tuesday night clash with the Bluebirds was no exception and the Senegalese showed once again why he garnered interest from one of Europe’s giants in January.

Adding to his combative effort in the 1-0 loss to Watford 17 days prior, the 29-year-old was once again crucial to his side winning the ever-crucial midfield battle, while also adding some creative flair to his performance in his assist for Calvert-Lewin.

While Evertonians were surely raving about his nutmeg on Sol Bamba in the late stages, the number 17’s love of a strong tackle and excellent positioning – the things he has become a fixture in the side for – will be crucial at the weekend, rather than the samba skills he exhibited on Tuesday night.

The former Aston Villa man has completed 11 tackles, 4 clearances and 2 interceptions in the last two games while, in comparison, Morgan Schneiderlin – Gueye’s defensive midfield partner on Tuesday – recorded just 1, 1 and 3 respectively.

Gueye and Gunnarsson

If Everton are to get revenge for the 1-0 loss at Anfield in December 2018 then they must find a way to dominate the midfield, and Gueye’s influence will be imperative to that endeavour.

His importance to the clash, though, goes beyond the defensive security he provides his team – he is one of few players on both Merseyside teams who is willing to stick a foot in and do the dirty things no-one else is willing to.

Xherdan Shaqiri was the only player booked before the 77th minute in the reverse fixture earlier this season, with the remaining four coming in the latter stages as the two sides finally clicked into gear and decided to scrap for a winner.

The last meeting lacked verve and intensity and, unfortunately, tame derbies are becoming more and more frequent in the modern day game as the influx of players who have little to no emotional attachment to the occasion increases.

Gueye, though, has been at Goodison Park since 2016 – he knows exactly what the clash will mean to supporters and, while there are surely other players in the Everton camp who are equally aware, he remains the only Everton midfielder who will get the fans on their feet by flying into a full-blooded, stadium-enchanting challenge.

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This kind of game is a nightmare for the referee to deal but it is what football fans want when they walk through the turnstiles on derby day, and 62-cap international Gueye will do both sets of fans a favour by producing another performance of the calibre of his recent two.