The Big Match Tactical View: Liverpool v Everton

4May 2013

England - Premier League


Michael Cox previews the meeting between Brendan Rodgers and David Moyes.


Liverpool v Everton, Sunday 1:30, Sky Sports 1.

Match Odds: Liverpool 1.98, Everton 4.3, The Draw 3.75.


After a very uneventful season for Liverpool, Luis Suarez's suspension has at least provided some controversy at Anfield - although considering how well Liverpool played without him at Newcastle last week, they don't appear to be missing their Uruguayan top scorer.


Brendan Rodgers has often chopped and changed between formations and attackers so far this season, and has made some peculiar selection decisions in recent months - leaving out Daniel Sturridge against Chelsea two weeks ago was particularly odd - but it's difficult to see him changing anything from last week's 6-0 win at St James' Park.


Another goalfest is unlikely, however, simply because Everton won't replicate Newcastle's suicidal defending. David Moyes' side always have a solid, compact defensive shape, and won't allow Coutinho so much time to play balls in behind for Sturridge to run onto.


However, the only major injury doubt could affect the shape of the game considerably. Darron Gibson plays a simple, reliable role deep in midfield for Everton, and he would be a crucial player in denying Coutinho space between the lines. If he starts, Everton should be able to cope - but if he's deemed unfit, Moyes will move Marouane Fellaini into a deeper role alongside Leon Osman, probably with Ross Barkley playing in the most advanced midfield position, as he did impressively at the Emirates recently. Fellaini offers strength and tough tackling, but less positional discipline than Gibson, who would be a big miss.


In a defensive sense, Rodgers main focus will be containing Leighton Baines, Everton's rampaging left-back - Dirk Kuyt used to do that job very effectively. Stewart Downing has his critics, but should be capable of tracking Baines up and down the line - and is a better option than Sturridge, who might have played on the right if Suarez was available.


However, for all Baines' attacking strength, opponents must take advantage of the space he leaves behind in the left-back zone. Liverpool did this very nicely in last season's FA Cup semi-final, with Suarez moving towards that flank and terrifying Sylvain Distin with his pace in behind - the Frenchman doesn't like being dragged out of the centre. Sturridge must do something similar, and if Liverpool can get the ball to him on the run, they'll cause problems.


Moyes' side usually focus on working overloads in wide positions, and Liverpool's midfielders must watch Osman's movement from central positions towards the flanks. Here, however, Everton might find themselves with a midfield advantage in the centre of the pitch - Coutinho isn't the best player in a defensive sense, so Lucas Leiva and Steven Gerrard could find themselves overrun by Osman, Fellaini and Barkley (or Gibson) at times. Liverpool will dominate possession, but could be caught out on counter-attacks.


This match could be slow to get going. The 2-2 draw between the sides earlier in the season at Goodison Park saw four goals inside the first 35 minutes, but that frantic start was caused by Everton pressing high up the pitch, creating an end-to-end battle. There will be some feisty tackles at the start of this fixture - which has seen more red cards than any other Premier League game - but Everton will surely concentrate on getting men behind the ball in the early stages. A half-time 0-0 at 3.6 would be a good back.


I'll stay clear of the Match Odds market - Liverpool have been underpriced all season, although Everton appear a little short at 4.3 considering their dreadful record at Anfield under Moyes. Instead, I'm going to back Liverpool to finish in the top 6 - ie, ahead of Everton - at 3.6. That price will drop significantly if Liverpool pick up a victory here, moving two points behind Everton, who still have to travel to Stamford Bridge while Liverpool face Fulham and QPR.


"We want to win the derby but if we finish above Everton there will be no celebrating as it's nothing, really," says Steven Gerrard. Still, the motivation is there, and the fixtures favour Liverpool.


Recommended bets:

Back a half-time 0-0 at 3.6

Back Liverpool to finish in the top six at 3.6



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Keywords: The Big Match Tactical View, Liverpool, Everton

Source: Betfair

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