Everton v Liverpool
Sunday 13:30, Sky Sports 1.
Match Odds: Everton 2.89/5, Liverpool 2.915/8, The Draw 3.412/5.
No more blood-and-thunder
Over the past few years, Merseyside derbies have become much more timid. Once, this fixture was once nailed-on for a red card, but there hasn't been a single dismissal in a match between Liverpool and Everton for four years - to the day, as it happens. Even that was a hugely surprising decision, and Jack Rodwell's suspension was eventually rescinded. There aren't many midfield enforcers on show here, so expect a fast-paced match, but maybe not the blood-and-thunder battle like we're accustomed to.
That's partly because of the identities of the two coaches, who have attempted to pack their sides with technical footballers comfortable on the ball, and are happiest when their teams are patient in possession - even if both have arguably had better results when attacking directly. There's great respect between Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers, and while both preach the importance of positivity, both are capable of changing their starting XI for a specific tactical task against a certain opposition.
Rodgers is the coach with more decisions to make here. It seems likely he'll stick with the 3-4-1-2 system he's used in the last couple of matches, which will create an interesting battle against an Everton side likely to remain in a standard 4-2-3-1 formation.
Mamadou Sakho, Martin Skrtel and Emre Can should form a three-man backline, although Rodgers will worry about Romelu Lukaku attacking into the channel on the outside of Can, and therefore could recall Joe Gomez, more of a solid defender.
Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno are the obvious choices as wing-backs, although both players are still learning how to play that position despite being naturally energetic, attack-minded full-backs - Clyne, in particular, seems uncomfortable without a wide midfielder to overlap and must take up more aggressive positions.
Lucas Leiva should hold in midfield, with stand-in skipper James Milner given license to push forward and Coutinho drifting between the lines behind two-on form Daniels: Sturridge and Ings, who will be asked to roam the channels to provide width, to prevent Liverpool becoming too easy to defend against.
Coleman an attacking weapon
First and foremost, Martinez is likely to make a couple of changes to the side which completed a remarkable turnaround against West Bromwich Albion on Monday evening. His defence should be strengthened by the return of both Seamus Coleman and John Stones, which will make the right side of his defence much more secure. Coleman could be particularly crucial as an attacking weapon if Liverpool use a three-man defence with no outright wingers, allowing the Irishman to fly forward into attack.
In midfield and attack, things should be unchanged. Gareth Barry will have a crucial role, and might be ask to become the spare man against Liverpool's two forwards - something he did at the start of Martinez's reign, but has been less obvious recently. Ross Barkley can drop back alongside James McCarthy to ensure Everton aren't overrun in midfield.
Gerard Deulofeu has been playing extremely well, with his direct dribbling bamboozling opposition full-backs, while Steven Naismith will play on the opposite flank and is more of a danger with his off-the-ball running, and his ability to become a second striker alongside Lukaku.
Barkley the key
The key battle here is obvious - Barkley v Lucas. The Everton midfielder has been tremendous so far this season, adding a final ball and an eye for goal to his already impressive all-round game, and in this fixture two years ago he absolutely destroyed Lucas with his intelligent movement.
Lucas loves scrapping in front of the back four but isn't particularly good at tracking mobile opposition number tens, and Barkley will find pockets of space to create. The question is whether Lukaku can also find space - he'll have a tough task against three centre-backs.
Liverpool will try to find Coutinho between the lines, but they might also prosper by playing long balls up to their front two, Strurridge and Ings. Stones' fitness is in doubt, and Liverpool should test his fitness by forcing him to cover out wide, in behind the advancing Coleman. Both Ings and Sturridge have shown ability in that inside-left position, and Everton's lack of a spare man might be crucial.
The statistics here point to a draw. Everton are unbeaten in their last six matches in all competitions, but haven't won against Liverpool in their last 10 attempts. Liverpool, meanwhile, have drawn four of their last five games 1-1, and have won just one of their last 8 away games in the Premier League.
A draw would keep all these records going, and for different reasons, that might suit both teams.