Everton Club Focus – Defensive shackles at Man City to be loosened for Liverpool clash

Everton got their tough run of fixtures off to the worst possible start on Saturday, losing 2-0 to Manchester City as David Moyes’ defensive tactics were eventually worn down by Roberto Mancini’s attacking stars. With Liverpool crossing the city to come to Goodison Park next weekend, Moyes faces an altogether different, but equally difficult, challenge from the fixture with Kenny Dalglish’s Reds.

It was perhaps telling that even in the aftermath of the Toffees’ defeat by City, few, despite speaking with the benefit of hindsight, were arguing Everton should have abandoned their defensive tactics earlier and thrown caution to the wind. Such is the level at which Mancini’s Blues now operate the prospects of a team at Everton’s level getting three points from the Etihad Stadium are as slim as across Manchester, at Old Trafford. That is despite Everton’s excellent recent record against Manchester City, but, as witnessed over the weekend, that counts for little in the face of a strike force that can afford to leave a player the calibre – and cost – of Carlos Tevez on the substitutes’ bench for the full 90 minutes. A hard-fought draw is the most Everton can reasonably expect to gain from City, and, for an hour, it looked like they might manage that.

Similar tactics against Liverpool will, however, not be tolerated by the Goodison faithful. Even if Tim Cahill is passed fit for the game and starts in a makeshift attack, supported by either Leon Osman or Marouane Fellaini, Everton will be expected to take more of the initiative against their red-shirted cousins. Louis Saha’s return to the fold in an impressive second-half cameo suggests that not only have the Frenchman’s Twitter transgressions been forgiven, but that the former Manchester United striker is fit again and raring to go. Saha can reasonably expect to feature from the start against Liverpool whether or not Cahill recovers from the injury that forced his early withdrawal, either in place of the Australian with support from Osman or Fellaini, or in conjunction with Cahill in Everton’s usual 4-4-1-1 formation.

The spate of bookings received by Everton is another aspect of the City defeat that would be beneficial to change against Liverpool, but the full-blooded, combative nature of a Merseyside derby means that is thoroughly unlikely. Indeed, it is far more likely that Everton will top the five bookings handed out by Howard Webb when faced with the roar of a packed, partisan Goodison crowd in the maelstrom of the Premier League’s most ill-disciplined fixture. Keeping 11 players on the pitch would, obviously, do Everton’s chances of three points the world of good, yet history suggests that at least one side will lose a player and, on the evidence of the Manchester City match, it looks more likely to be Everton. In Manchester, Everton committed 13 fouls, five of which were judged to be worthy of a yellow card by Webb, but that number could pale in comparison by this time next week, and that, in turn, could have serious ramifications for Everton’s forthcoming fixtures.

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