Everton v Liverpool: Don't expect Merseyside magic

Everton are in terrific form as they face a Liverpool side licking its wounds after humiliation at Aston Villa. Kevin Hatchard doesn't expect many goals or a Reds win...

Everton v Liverpool
Saturday 17 October, 12:30
Live on BT Sport 1

Everton dreaming of return to relevance

Having ambition and financial resources can be a potent combination, but only if you have the acumen to spend the money in an astute way. Everton have attracted a world-class manager in Carlo Ancelotti, and he has opened the door to signings that the Toffees could only have previously dreamt of, despite the deep pockets of owner Farhad Moshiri.

James Rodriguez and Allan have transformed the heart of the Everton side, and both have worked with Ancelotti before. James has three goals and two assists already in the Premier League, while Allan has provided security and organisation at the base of midfield. Dominic Calvert-Lewin has rattled in six Premier League goals in four games, and across 2020 the new England international has scored 11 league goals. Richarlison is also thriving, with the Brazilian coming up with a goal and two assists.

This weekend's Merseyside derby gives Everton the chance to really rubber-stamp that progress. They haven't beaten Liverpool in the Premier League for ten years, a run of 19 top-flight games. In that spell, they have collected 11 points from an available 57. In all competitions, the Opta stats show that Everton have gone 22 games without a victory against their old foes. Everton are also looking for history of a different kind - they haven't won their first five games of a league campaign since 1938.

Allan, Andre Gomes and Seamus Coleman are all back in training after injury, and Ancelotti has no further injury or suspension concerns.

Liverpool need to digest seismic shock

Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp says he sent his players a long text message the day after his side's pitiful 7-2 collapse at Aston Villa, and the German coach's ability to rebuild confidence has never been more important. Liverpool have had a deserved aura of invincibility in the last couple of seasons, as they have won major trophies at home and abroad, but their hammering at Villa Park was a little bit like seeing the curtain pulled back in the Wizard of Oz to find that the all-powerful magician is actually just a regular old man.

Of course, Liverpool are still an outstanding side, and as I've stated in my team-by-team preview of the Champions League, they are deservedly one of the favourites to win that tournament. However, what the loss did highlight is the shaky nature of Liverpool's defending so far this season. They have leaked 11 goals in their first four league games, and if you go back further in 2020, they have conceded 29 goals in their last 16 top-flight outings.

It's also worth looking at Liverpool's away form. The Reds have lost four of their last eight PL road matches, having won 16 of the previous 17. Some of that decline can be attributed to an easing off once the Premier League title was pretty much secured, but it's still a worrying trend from Klopp's point of view.

There have at least been some boosts when it comes to personnel. Sadio Mane and Thiago have both successfully recovered from COVID-19, and are back in training. Alisson is still struggling with a shoulder injury, so Adrian, who had a nightmare against Villa, could deputise.

Liverpool too short at odds-on

Given that seven of the last eight Premier League meetings between these two have ended level, and that Everton have won all of their league games so far, Liverpool seem too short to win the game at 1.9. The likely absence of Alisson is huge blow to the champions, and they are facing an Everton team that has its key players available and is in terrific form.

I'll lay the visitors here at 1.9, but if you want to back yet another derby draw at Goodison Park, that outcome is available at 4.3.

History suggests a drab affair

Remarkably, the last three PL meetings between these sides at Goodison Park have ended 0-0, and Opta tell us another goalless draw in this fixture would be a record. One of those stalemates was post-lockdown, so it can't even be explained away by the derby atmosphere. 0-0 is trading at 22.0 in the Correct Score market, and that's certainly worth considering as a trading option.

Six of the last eight meetings between the sides have featured fewer than three goals, and I expect another intense affair, with so much more than local pride at stake. I'll back Under 2.5 Goals at 2.68.

Spot-kick drama on the cards?

Referee Michael Oliver has already awarded seven penalties in four Premier League matches this term, and while there has been a softening of the approach to the handball regulations, backing a penalty to be awarded is still an avenue worth exploring.

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