The Third Round of the FA Cup can’t get much better than a Merseyside Derby; one of the most prestigious and historic rivalries in English football kicking off one of our country’s greatest sporting traditions.
Indeed, Liverpool and Everton meet at 7.55pm at Anfield this evening to bring in the Third Round and judging by their most recent clash – a 1-1 draw in December – it looks set to be another tight-knit encounter between the two local rivals. This week’s expert, Liverpool-loving Sam McGuire from Football Whispers, shares his thoughts and predictions ahead of the FA Cup edition of the Merseyside derby…
Having not lost in any competition since October, Liverpool have quietly but surely solidified their top-four credentials over the last few months. They now boast a three-point margin over fourth-place Tottenham and are the same distance behind second-place Manchester United.
But pencilled in to host perennial pace-setters Manchester City when the Premier League returns in a week’s time, it’s inevitably a question of priorities for the Merseysiders.
Should Jurgen Klopp focus his resources on the FA Cup or achieving Champions League qualification?
“If this was your normal FA Cup third round clash then it would make sense for Klopp to rest his key players ahead of City’s visit to Anfield. But this isn’t a normal tie. It’s the Merseyside derby and we owe them for the smash-and-grab last month. There’s enough of a gap between the two matches to field a strong XI in both matches.”
While many argue it degrades the integrity of the competition, there are some positives to the Third Round of the FA Cup becoming the primary occasion in which Premier League managers give chances to young players – something that will particularly resonate at Liverpool, a club famed for their academy products, and with Klopp who owes much of his success to developing young talent.
Are there any Liverpool youngsters you’d like to see make their first appearance or start for the club on Friday?
“Rhian Brewster is probably the obvious one. He’s scoring goals for fun in the academy and he impressed for England. Dominic Solanke isn’t having much luck in front of goal so Brewster could be a bit of a wildcard, something you need in a derby match from time to time. I wouldn’t start him but him coming off the bench could be an intriguing prospect.”
The last time these two sides met in December, Liverpool dominated in terms of possession and efforts on goal, but Everton stole a point at Anfield as Wayne Rooney netted a penalty after a rare breakaway from the underdog visitors.
What lessons need to be learned from that game to ensure Liverpool get the win this time around?
“Liverpool dominated the ball but Everton dominated the space. It looked as though we controlled the game but in reality we created very little and needed a moment of magic from Mohamed Salah to break the deadlock. This time around we need to be more aggressive in our approach.
“Everton will no doubt look to sit deep in compact lines. Liverpool need to probe and stretch the Everton backline instead of opting to play an easier pass and playing the game in front of their defensive lines.”
Liverpool have scored twice as many Premier League goals as Everton this season and the Toffees have netted just once in their last four games, but the Reds would be wrong to underestimate the visitors’ attacking threat.
Which Everton player is capable of causing Liverpool the most damage?
“You’d have to say Dominic Calvert-Lewin. He impressed during the derby in December and he earned the penalty. He’s got bundles of energy and he’s the sort of striker to never give the centre-backs a moment’s peace. While Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan have looked assured over recent weeks there are still question marks over them when they’re up against aggressive attackers. We’ve seen it many times before.”
And finally Sam, let’s hear your score prediction…
“I hate doing predictions. Liverpool are without Philippe Coutinho and Salah so that obviously weakens them in the attacking third.
However, I do think they’ll have enough to win. An early goal opens the game up and Everton will have to attack. I’m going with a 3-0 home win.”