THE derby is an inconvenience right now. We’re having a party and the neighbours have knocked round to see what’s going on. Fuck off ya nosey meffs, no one invited you.
Everton aren’t our business and we’re none of theirs.
Social mores dictate we have to let them in though. After that, anything can happen.
Liverpool have kept The Blues in check these past two decades largely because Liverpool have Everton in perspective. I say Liverpool, I mean the manager and players. The fans are different. Phil Coutinho doesn’t ever think about Everton. Mo Salah doesn’t even know where Everton is. Is it a place, a nickname or a crypto zoological creature? Mo don’t care. Mo just smells blood.
Jürgen Klopp knows about The Blues. It’s his job to have one eye on them. He also knows all about the new loon in their dugout. Big Samuel Allardyce got the hump with Kloppo last time Kloppo beat him. It wasn’t about anything important to anyone but Sam.
Sam called Klopp “the German” in a folksy xenophobic attempt to put the Liverpool manager in his place. Ouch! Klopp just thought he was funny. He’s right. Allardyce is funny.
Regrettably, he also has a trick in him. It’s something Klopp himself professes to also like putting into practise.
“Against better teams, we drag them down to our level, and then beat them,” said Jürgen once upon a time.
“I’m all about that,” Big Sam would concur. Both men mean very different things though. Klopp was talking about a tactical and disciplined approach that involves team shape, running at the right moments and of course, all of that counter (gegen) pressing. Klopp means we will overwhelm you with our desire to be better than you. You will not be good today because it’s all about us.
Sam prefers to make it about the opposition not finding a stride. He does not require his own team to find one, he just needs there to be as little actual football on display as possible. This is not to say that an Allardyce team can’t cut loose and put on a show occasionally. Sam is a relatively sophisticated tactician and cherisher of the game’s finer details.
However, he is a character that relishes the simplicity of ambition required when facing clearly better teams. These challenges are faced by presenting the superior sides with the full gamut of the sport’s dark arts. An Allardyce team will not just defend in numbers, it will kick you, and kick you, and feign injury, and kick balls away, and sledge and kick, and reduce the spectacle to a dour farce.
If you let him.
Klopp will remind his Liverpool how good they are. He may tell his men that this may be the bash of the year for the neighbours but for us it’s just another social engagement to be endured and overcome in a busy calendar. The manager knows Everton will be defensive and will therefore feel he needs all the specialist kit in his toolbox to go to work on them. This will most likely necessitate that he eschews rotation for his front four and asks them to push themselves a little closer to the pain barrier.
In centre mid, we know Henderson will return (because the manager has told us so), and I’d expect Emre Can to partner him. Can demonstrated that while brain tends to prevail over brawn in a derby, there’s no harm in having at least one gnarly enforcer doing door duties in the middle of the park. The defence is harder to guess at. Joe Gomez and Ragnar Klavan look certain starters, but both Dejan Lovren and Alberto Moreno left the pitch on Wednesday night with injuries. James Milner, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson will all sense that they may see derby day action.
Every encounter with The Blues seems to have its own special flavour. In recent times the core ingredient has always been provided by The Blues. They were savouring attacking Liverpool with Bobby Martinez’s side in 2014. Last season they felt Ronald Koeman’s continental smarts might be enough to outwit The Reds. Now they’re throwing the streetwise old-stager Allardyce into our cauldron. Good luck, boys. You may find a way to beat us, but you’re definitely going to need to be lucky in doing so.
Predicted 11: Mignolet; Gomez, Klavan, Lovren, Milner; Henderson, Can, Coutinho; Salah, Mane, Firmino.
Kick off: 2.15pm on Sky Sports
Referee: Craig Pawson
Odds: Liverpool 4-13, Draw 11-2, Everton 11-1