Loyalty and patience, two undervalued concepts.
- Jul 16, 2007
So, this will probably be one of the most testing games since the beginning of the season, and very much a test of our credentials in this league. Everton finished higher than us last season in the league, and generally have done well since two years. Their team is still together, apart the loss of Fellaini, who has been replaced by several quality players, among them Romelu Lukaku, Gareth Barry and James McCarthy, so there has been no loss in quality at all compared with last season.
Martinez, having replaced the departing Moyes, has instilled much more tactical know-how, and as a result, I see them as much more dangerous for us than they were last season, when we managed to get two heavily-contested draws (2-2 away, and 0-0 home).
While we have gone on a decent series of games recently (WDWLW), and sit second in the table, Everton haven't done too bad themselves (LWWDD), and currently are just three points behind us. Apart from their loss at Man City, where they shipped three goals, they have been at the end of just one goal in four games. Needless to say that our forwards will need to be at the peak of their form to undo this solid and well-organized team.
On the other hand, they seem to experience a bit of a slow-down attacking-wise, having scored only five goals in the last five matches, and more importantly, no goal at all against Tottenham and at Crystal Place, their last two games.
So, this match will have a big say where we will head towards this season. Going to Goodison is always tough, and this is valid for any team in the league. So, a win will propel us six points clear of them, and it will count as a huge marker of our credentials of being able to break into the European places. A loss however will see us right in the mix among the teams fighting around sixth place.
As this is a derby, form will obviously fly out of the window, and the contest will be up for those who want it most. So, expect high-flying tackles, many fouls, a high-pressure and -passion context, and... at least one important ref error which will influence the game heavily. Two years ago, an Everton player was wrongly sent off by Martin Atkinson, and last season, a perfectly regular goal from Suarez was disallowed late in the game by Andre Marriner.
I won't expand on who should be selected for that game, as there are still international games to play before the squads comes back together. If possible, we should go on with the same tactics that served us well against Fulham: a 433, with hopefully the same players than against Fulham.
However, it's far from sure whether this will be possible. Suarez has a qualification match just 72 hours before the match starts off (it remains to be seen if he will be selected though, as Uruguay are all but through). Sturridge has limped off with a niggle during training with England, and is uncertain. Gerrard himself has been given an injection to be able to play against Germany, so we'll need to see how it goes.
Fingers crossed that there won't be other niggles/casualties, as we need to be in top form to give the Blues the beating they are long due at their ground (they haven't lost any game at Goodison since the end of December 2012, against Chelsea)!