The BIGGEST Merseyside derby in Premier League history: After battling for titles in the 80s, Liverpool and Everton have been miles apart… but now the Blues are flying high and the champions have a point to prove in a city struggling with lockdown
- Saturday marks the return of the eagerly anticipated Merseyside derby
- Reigning champions Liverpool face their neighbours who now top the division
- It is 10 years since Everton have pulled off victory as the Reds dominated
- Carlo Ancelotti has rejuvenated the side and now has his own players on board
- The match arrives when the city of Liverpool is a critical Covid-19 moment
Ten years is a long time in football, most pressingly so when that period marks a duration of misery and humiliation.
Saturday sees the return of the Merseyside derby and it is a decade since Everton have left with bragging rights and pulled off victory over noisy neighbours Liverpool.
Ten long years of hurt as dominance swayed firmly in the favour of the men in Red. Yet now, as the Premier League makes its return following the international break, a very different derby lies in wait.
Jurgen Klopp (L) and Carlo Ancelotti (R) will lead their teams into the biggest derby in years
Liverpool may enter the match as reigning champions of England once more, but a bizarre 7-2 thrashing by Aston Villa prior to the international break has left Jurgen Klopp’s men on the ropes with everything to prove.
Everton, meanwhile, are very much in the middle of a purple patch. The Toffees are unbeaten, top of the table, and clicking into full fluency under the magic touch of Carlo Ancelotti.
So, as one of English football’s biggest fixtures returns – amid the uncertainty of a city very much struggling with rapidly escalating coronavirus concerns – Sportsmail takes a look at why this is indeed the biggest Merseyside derby in Premier League history.
Football fanatics pencil this fixture into their diaries at the start of every season.
The Merseyside derby always promises a throwback to football of yesteryear; high octane action and a passionate will to win.
The 1980s saw the Merseyside derby as the fixture of English football. Two northern powerhouses battling out for far more than bragging rights, but a shot at title glory.
In the late seventies, spilling into the eighties, Liverpool were the team to beat.
Everton’s growth in stature saw the fixture shaken up like never before. In 1985 and 1987 the Toffees ousted their great rivals to stand as kings of England, and the derby quickly became associated with full-blooded tackles and snarling insults.
The seventies and eighties saw both sides do battle as two of the best teams in the country
Since, the derby has retained its steel and venomous edge, yet Liverpool’s dominance has turned proceedings more into a case of Everton upsetting the apple cart, rather than pushing their neighbours to the brink.
Now, things are much different. Everton have started the season better than anyone else, and boast one of the most decorated and well respected managers in world football.
Ancelotti is now firmly steering the ship in his own direction, and putting his fingerprints all over the blue side of the city.
After taking over from the doomed tenure of Marco Silva, Ancelotti made clear to the Everton board he would take on their sizeable task providing he was given full control.
Now, coming up to one year at the helm, Ancelotti finally has the team he wants after a summer of steady purchases and tactical planning.
The veteran Italian acquired his desired talisman in James Rodriguez after striking up a relationship with the Colombian at both Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
Everton started the season better than anyone else and sit at the top of the table unbeaten
Behind James, Ancelotti has remastered the midfield, adding tenacity and dynamism in the form of Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure.
The three summer signings have become an instant hit at Goodison, and it is a shame fans have not been permitted inside the famous old stadium to watch them make a fine start to their Everton days.
Allan and Doucoure have so far expertly managed the pace and tempo of games while James has been afforded time and space to dissect opponents and feed the in-form Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Things are firmly clicking at Everton at the moment, with Ancelotti’s firebrand football in full flow.
For one man, that could spread concern…
Klopp versus Ancelotti
If there is one manager Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp struggles against it is Ancelotti.
The grey-haired Italian has enjoyed several victories over Klopp on the big stage, with his Napoli team regularly out-smarting Liverpool despite inferior resources.
When these two managers meet, a game of tactical chess is always guaranteed.
In eight meetings with Ancelotti, Klopp has won three and lost three with two – including the most recent Merseyside derby (which was Ancelotti’s first) – ending in a draw.
Despite his surging success in recent years, Klopp appears to struggle against Ancelotti (left)
Ancelotti has a way of reading Klopp’s methodology and making sound predictions as to how the German will shape up his side.
This season, Ancelotti has the benefit of being able to do this once more except with a greater degree of talent at his disposal.
Everton are in form and, with the likes of James in the ranks, Ancelotti has weapons of his own and does not simply have to set up to nullify the Reds.
Bragging rights… and more?
For years Everton fans have been desperate for their side to make headway and climb up from mid-table mediocrity.
Countless millions have been invested and, in many cases, squandered, as the Toffees set about looking to redefine themselves and become a force in English football.
Differing managers have come and gone, from the likes of Roberto Martinez to Ronald Koeman.
For some time Everton have yearned for a fresh, European feel to their football. Now under Ancelotti they are bidding to achieve this on a consistent and long-term basis.
James Rodriguez has settled rapidly and is starring as the talisman Everton have needed
Certainly this time around it feels different. Everton are controlling games with a new-found distinction and looking fitting victors for the victories they are amassing.
It is still early days, of course, and Liverpool represent the biggest test they will have faced this season.
In years gone by a potential Everton win would only carry short-term bragging rights, with the Toffees struggling for consistency and long-term ambition.
Now, grand plans are hatching. While it hasn’t been publicly stated Everton will almost certainly have their eyes on European football, with hopes being held for a highly commendable burst into Champions League reckoning.
For Liverpool, they enter this fixture having finally got back on their perch as English champions, and had started the season in fizzing form until their visit to Villa Park.
Mouths were left agape when Dean Smith’s side tore strips of flesh from the reigning titans, with Liverpool simply unable to respond. Klopp smiled on the touchline as his side were rocked to their core, but now knows the scrutinising eyes of the football world are firmly upon his side.
Liverpool were rocked by Aston Villa and the humiliating loss shocked the entire football world
A city in Covid crisis
And so to Saturday’s lunchtime show-piece, where we have so much more than a routine derby on our hands.
The city of Liverpool right now finds itself in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, with spiking cases seeing a tier-three restriction imposed.
Now at the highest level of the newly devised restrictions, pubs, bars, gyms and leisure centres, casinos, betting shops and adult gaming centres will all be forced to close.
People are banned from socialising with anyone outside their household indoors or in private gardens.
The city of Liverpool is now in tier three of Covid-19 restrictions, meaning people are banned from socialising with anyone outside their household indoors or in private gardens
This places an entirely different perspective on the derby for the football-obsessed city.
Personnel from within the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport have repeatedly stressed the importance of sport for community life, with lives hindered and the stresses of daily life taking hold.
Fans will instead be glued to television screens watching one of the most eagerly anticipated derbies of all time without the unity of fellow supporters. It makes the match all the more strange, though no less important.
Biggest Merseyside derby in Premier League history?
The outcome of this match could have a much greater impact than most people realise.
Seasons are not made in the opening few months, but they can certainly be broken. At this stage momentum is everything.
A first victory in 10 years over Liverpool would send Everton soaring to new heights, full of belief under a manager who has won it all.
Meanwhile for Liverpool it is a case of making immediate amends from their Villa Park horror show.
Klopp’s troops must prove the capitulation was a freak one-off, hindered greatly by a congested early season calendar and the lack of motivation-spurring supporters.
To get back on the metaphorical horse though they must once again travel to an away ground.
Liverpool enter the match as reigning champions once more but have a massive point to prove
It’s never ideal, particularly when a result is vital and more so when it is derby stakes. Everton, therefore, are facing Liverpool at perhaps the most perfect of times.
Huge questions will be asked of the Reds if they fold over against their rivals, surrendering a derby unbeaten streak and revealing a weak under-belly once more.
Influential goalkeeper Alisson is out of the fixture, while deputy Adrian is seen by many as a weak link which Everton will undoubtedly target.
For the first time since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, the derby feels like a fixture where both sides have everything to play for with grand expectations on the line.
Beat Liverpool in the league for the first time in a decade and Everton extend their lead at the top of the Premier League table. It’s been quite some time since fans on the blue side of the city have been hearing anything like that.
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