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Player Zone: Lucas Digne holds key to Everton victory over Liverpool

Leighton Baines started at left-back the last time Everton tasted victory in a Merseyside derby but, despite the fact he remains at the club more than eight years later, Lucas Digne looks the most likely candidate to line up on the left side of the back-four when the sides go head-to-head on Sunday afternoon.

If ever there was a time for the Toffees to end their derby-day hoodoo.

A victory for Manchester City against Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon will put the current champions above Liverpool when Jurgen Klopp’s side kick-off on Sunday. The added incentive of denting the title ambitions of their local-rivals certainly adds an extra dimension to the fixture for the Evertonians.

For Digne, this will be his first taste of derby-day action at Goodison. The reverse fixture at Anfield lacked the bite and intensity which one would expect to see from a clash between two historic rivals, but it only takes a thundering challenge in the opening moments of the game to bring the home crowd into play.

Rugged challenges are not what Digne is renowned for, nor are they something which has been expected of him in the past; his repertoire is built around a relentless endeavour to stomp into opposition territory, where he can utilise his textbook technique, whipping crosses into dangerous areas and picking the defensive lock with quick one-twos.

But the Frenchman needs only to take a brief look into the past to acknowledge that he must broaden his pallet in order to suffocate Mo Salah’s influence. In Liverpool’s last game against Manchester United, Luke Shaw, who signed for £27 million in 2014, bossed the Egyptian and delivered the type of big-game performance which is needed to keep the superstar forward at bay.

If the former Barcelona talent can emulate Shaw then Everton will have a fantastic opportunity to keep a clean sheet and claim the bragging rights which have eluded them for the best part of a decade.

There is another aspect to the fixture, though, which suggests Digne could be of paramount importance. Trent Alexander-Arnold returned to the starting XI against Watford in midweek with a game-changing bang: he provided assists for three of Liverpool’s five goals.

Not only will Digne need to communicate effectively with Everton’s left-winger to ensure the marauding full-back is tracked effectively and consistently throughout, he will also need to test Alexander-Anrold’s resolve in the final-third by overlapping and restricting the right-back’s movement into the final-third.

It would be a gross exaggeration to describe Alexander-Arnold as defensively suspect, but there are certainly holes within his game to be exploited and, considering he is not fully match fit after a spell on the sidelines, Digne could use a potential frailty to his advantage.

Marcel Brands’ decision to bring the left-back from Catalonia to Merseyside has been relatively popular so far. There are, however, plenty of sceptics who struggle to share the opinion of those who laud Digne’s quality.

Starring in a rare Merseyside derby victory would be the perfect way for the full-back to announce himself to the Goodison Park faithful.

Article title: Player Zone: Lucas Digne holds key to Everton victory over Liverpool

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