Everton may have picked up two consecutive wins since announcing Sam Allardyce as their new manager but that short honeymoon period could well come to an abrupt end this weekend when his side travel to Anfield for the latest instalment of the Merseyside derby.
With the two clubs at opposing ends of the Premier League table, Liverpool boasting home advantage and illustrious attacking form, the Reds are inevitably the favourites for Sunday’s 2.15pm kickoff. That doesn’t mean an Everton victory is completely out of the question though; Allardyce just needs to find the right answers to these three crucial questions…
Of course, it’s easier said than done – especially after the confidence gained by destroying Spartak Moscow 7-0 in midweek. Liverpool boast one of the most fearsome attacks in Europe and Mohamed Salah is a frightening entity on his own, topping the Premier League’s scoring charts with twelve goals in 15 appearances – alongside Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane, Liverpool are almost impossible to stop when they hit top gear.
But if there’s one shared flaw amongst their attacking cast, it’s that all of them like to drift inside and none are at their best in wide positions.
Likewise, Liverpool are limited in terms of height in the opposition box, so Everton’s best chance of stopping the Reds’ front-line this weekend surely lays in keeping them as wide as possible and forcing them into a crossing game.
That will depend on setting up with a deep defensive line and the wide midfielders doing more than their fair share of tracking back.
While Everton seem almost certain to set up deep on Sunday and create the circumstances for a gritty, rear-guard performance, that does come with its own dangers at Anfield. Liverpool are far more potent on the counter and they’ve struggled to break down well-organised and physical sides at home before, but they still have the quality to punish teams who allow themselves to become trapped in their own defensive third.
That’s perhaps the biggest danger to Everton’s expected game-plan this weekend and Allardyce will have to ensure there’s an outlet in attack that can quickly bring his team up the pitch. Wayne Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson just aren’t mobile enough for that task and although Dominic Calvert-Lewin is the most obvious candidate, a lack of experience may well convince Allardyce to turn to Oumar Niasse instead for such a hot-tempered game.
For all the criticism of Liverpool’s defensive problems this season, they’ve actually conceded the second-fewest home goals of any side in the Premier League – just two in seven games – which begs the question of what Everton’s best chance of scoring at Anfield actually is.
Set pieces inevitably stand out; although Liverpool are yet to concede from one at home in the Premier League this season, they’ve conceded the most of any top six side overall with five from 15 games. Furthermore, if there’s one manager who knows how to take advantage of organisational weaknesses in such scenarios, it’s undoubtedly Allardyce.
That being said, the Toffees have scored just three times from set pieces in the top flight this season, all coming at Goodison Park, so some extra work is needed on the training pitch before Sunday’s 2.15pm kickoff comes around.
If you’re going to put together a coupon this weekend, wait until you’ve seen the brace of bets we propose in the latest Football FanCast Accy Show! First up, we’re backing a treble of London Premier League clubs for outright wins—on a slip that benefits from LeoVegas Enhanced Odds. For the more cavalier, we’ve put together a pretty enticing fourfold from the EFL. Check it out and let us know what you’re backing this weekend!