Everton have made a hugely encouraging start to their season, and will be sensing an opportunity to pile more pressure on their bitter rivals Liverpool when the sides meet in what is, as always, an eagerly anticipated clash.
A stunning comeback from the Toffees when all seemed lost at West Bromwich Albion on Monday evening lifted them to fifth in the Premier League, reward for a series of much improved performances. They were below-par for nearly an hour at the Hawthorns and found themselves two goals down, but the freedom they exhibited from then on shifted the momentum of the game totally as they thrice pierced what has been one of the least penetrable defences so far in the top-flight.
Despite his overall lack of involvement in the game, Romelu Lukaku was very much at the centre of the turnaround, scoring twice and setting up another for Arouna Kone, who has offered his side an extra dimension in attack. In the shape of that duo as well as the raw ability of Gerard Deulofeu and the menace of Steven Naismith, Everton have the ability to cause severe problems to a Reds defence that is appearing increasingly vulnerable.
Liverpool did at least produce their best attacking performance of the campaign in the last Premier League match at home to Aston Villa, with Daniel Sturridge back at his clinical best and playing his part in some glorious interplay with Philippe Coutinho and Danny Ings, and it will have been refreshing for the supporters to see more of what their team is really capable of going forward following weeks of underperformance, something which will only increase their level of optimism here.
Even so, they could never rest easily against Tim Sherwood’s side as they conceded two cheap goals against the run of play; lapses which will surely be punished again on the other side of Stanley Park. Lucas Leiva and James Milner will play a key role in the middle of the pitch, and it was perhaps their experience which they lacked in the middle of the pitch in Thursday’s frustrating Europa League draw with FC Sion, a game which again exposed a lack of ruthlessness.
Kevin Mirallas is suspended for Everton and Muhamed Besic highly doubtful, but they could have Seamus Coleman and John Stones back after they missed the trip to West Brom.
The visitors will make changes from the Europa League match, but are still without Roberto Firmino, Dejan Lovren and Jordan Henderson. They are hopeful of the fitness of Christian Benteke, who will be assessed before kick-off.
Last Meeting: Both teams huffed and puffed, but there was nothing to separate the two rivals when they met in February as the game ended goalless. After being handed a surprise starting place, Jordon Ibe impressed and came the closest when his shot hit the frame of the Everton goal. Towards the end, Simon Mignolet had to be alert to keep out Seamus Coleman.
Played for both – Nick Barmby: The attacking midfielder spent four years at Everton as they often struggled to maintain their Premier League status in the late 1990s. He scored 18 goals in 116 league appearances before taking the dubious step of joining their biggest rivals, for whom he helped win the League Cup in 2003 and scored twice in 32 league outings.