Known as the ‘friendly derby’, the all-Merseyside clash is one of the most eagerly anticipated games in English football.
Everton and Liverpool have very much been on the up over the course of the past few years, and the games nowadays seem to have genuine meaning in the battle for spots at the upper end of the table – albeit this season is a little more complicated.
Last time out at Anfield Phil Jagielka’s stunning last minute drive saw the game end 1-1, and the visitors this time around will be desperate to avenge the shared points and maintain their impressive 2015 form. But, who would make the ultimate combined XI?
We think this lot are the pick of the red and blue troops in a 4-3-3 set-up… Agree? Disagree?
Simon Mignolet may have revived a little of late, but rather like microwaving a cold cup of tea, he can’t quite be saved! Howard has also been off the pace lately, but the currently injured American has proven himself in the Premier League through the years and well and truly shone at the World Cup over the summer.
Tall, imposing and commanding, Howard is a good foundation for a solid defence.
This term may not be looking like the success last season was for Coleman, but the Irish ace is still an excellent right-back. Everton’s defensive struggles and the lack of pace his centre-backs possess may be hindering the 26-year-old, and we’re willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and a spot in this all-Mersey XI.
The big Slovakian may love to get involved in a bit of penalty area wrestling, but he’s actually a very adept centre-back. Quicker than he’s given credit for, brave, fierce in the tackle and a threat from attacking set-pieces, Skrtel was a key member of the Liverpool side that so nearly claimed the league title last season, and has impressed this term since Rodgers’ decision to switch to a back three.
An all-Liverpool centre-back combo is completed by Sakho. The Frenchman’s last derby day is one he’ll want to forget – he allegedly stormed out of Anfield after being dropped from the squad – but this time around it could be a much more positive 90 minutes for the ex-PSG captain. Although he looks a little leggy and appears to be one second away from a catastrophic error, a pass completion record of 89% suggests that he’s actually an adept footballer!
The back four is rounded off with Baines who, although not performing to his very best this term, is one of the best left-back in English football. Excellent from crossing situations and deadly from set-pieces, the ex-Wigan man’s solid defensive attributes and will to win often get overlooked.
How could any Merseyside XI be complete without Stevie Gerrard? This looks to be the last time ‘Captain Fantastic’ takes to the field against Everton, and although his powers are fading, there is still magic in those boots, and he’ll surely be eager to show it at Goodison Park. A true hero of the modern game and one of the best midfielders to have ever been produced in England.
From the past to the future, Barkley has already been compared to Gerrard, and the potential he has is truly frightening. Although a little naïve defensively, the marauding midfielder is a breath of fresh air going forward, where his exuberance comes to the fore through driving runs and wicked shots from distance. Injuries have hindered him of late, but this XI will always have space for Ross.
At the apex of this midfield three Coutinho will be pulling the strings. A little frustrating at times, the Brazilian has a sprinkling of stardust in his boots and is capable of the spectacular – as he showed against Bolton earlier this week. Like many Samba stars, the No. 10 appears to have the ball glued to his feet when moving at full flight, and his silky skills have truly been on show since the turn of the year alongside Raheem Sterling.
Now to the exciting stuff… the front three. Both Mersey clubs have real talent in the final third, and Mirallas is one of the best in the North West region. The Belgian can blow hot and cold, but when he’s hot, he’s on fire! Able to drift past his marker and rifle the ball at goal with deadly accuracy and power, the ex-Olympiakos man will be a threat this weekend.
Fresh from his mid-winter holiday in Jamaica, Sterling has been excellent of late. There seems to be no position on the field the youngster cannot operate in, but for the purpose of this team he’s on the right flank where his pace and lightening feet are lethal. Although a little wasteful in front of goal, Sterling looks like he’s destined for the very top.
Score. Dance. Repeat. Having Sturridge back has lifted the mood on the red half of Merseyside, while the blue sector must have been quietly hoping for a minor set-back to keep him out of the derby. Now a talisman for his side, Sturridge is prolific in front of goal and seems ready to step up following Luis Suarez’s exit, although he’s only had five chances to show that so far!