Liverpool put seven goals past Spartak Moscow in midweek - and Everton are next in the firing line. Michael Cox looks at the tactical battle and Alan Thompson provides the betting expertise.
"Against this Everton defence, simply pushing men high up the pitch might be very useful."
Liverpool v Everton
Sunday 14:15, Sky Sports Main Event.
Match Odds: Liverpool 1.331/3, Everton 11.010/1, The Draw 6.05/1.
Klopp to use the Fab Four again?
Jurgen Klopp boasts a 100% record in Merseyside derbies - and he's odds-on favourite to land another victory against a beleaguered Everton side.
Liverpool warmed up for this match with a 7-0 destruction of Spartak Moscow on Wednesday, a terrifyingly dominant performance which featured Klopp effectively using a front four, with Coutinho pushed forward to join Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino. Salah and Firmino scored once apiece, Mane grabbed two, Coutinho hit his first Liverpool hattrick. Everton should be worried.
In terms of personnel, Klopp is likely to make various changes ahead of this game. Simon Mignolet will replaced Loris Karius in goal, while Jordan Henderson will return to the midfield, presumably in place of Emre Can, although Klopp could decide to field Can alongside Henderson, with Georginio Wijnaldum omitted. Alberto Moreno limped off injured and is likely to be replaced at left-back by James Milner.
But arguably a more important decision is Liverpool's shape. This fixture is usually about winning the midfield battle, and Coutinho has impressed since being used there rather than in a wide-left position, but after Wednesday night's performance, there's every chance Klopp will instead play a 4-4-2 system, with Coutinho and Mane wide, and Firmino and Salah upfront. Against this Everton defence, simply pushing men high up the pitch might be very useful.
Allardyce's grand plan
Sam Allardyce debuted with a home victory over Huddersfield last week, but this is his first serious test as Everton boss. Interestingly, Allardyce didn't travel to Cyprus for Everton's dead rubber Europa League match on Thursday, and instead concentrated on drilling the first-team on the training ground ahead of this game. It's difficult to work out, however, precisely how he'll manage to cause Liverpool problems here.
The major problem is the defence, where Everton still have major injury problems. It seems a four-man defence of Jonjoe Kenny, Michael Keane, Ashley Williams and Cuco Martina seems likely - which could be disastrous. The centre-backs have looked nervous this season, the full-backs have never truly proven themselves Premier League quality - and against the likes of Salah and Mane, they could badly struggle.
Allardyce will therefore presumably look to shield them with a solid midfield quintet. Idrissa Gueye was the lone holding midfielder last weekend, and while one might have expected Morgan Schneiderlin to give him support here, the Frenchman started in the Europa League on Thursday so will presumably be on the bench again. Tom Davies' energy should be crucial, Aaron Lennon will probably continue on the right, while the left flank will probably see Gylfi Sigurdsson drifting inside.
Rooney to continue in midfield
Then there's the question of Wayne Rooney, who was impressive against West Ham in a conventional central midfield role, but might be overrun here. Allardyce's brief stint as England manager saw him saying that, 'It's not for me where to tell Wayne Rooney to play', but Allardyce needs to make a major decision about Rooney here. He seems likely to continue in midfield, where he might be overrun.
That means upfront will be Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who would stretch the play more with his speed in behind. Lookman may cause Milner problems with his direct running, and set-pieces could be a factor - Liverpool don't defend them well and Sigurdsson's delivery is excellent, even if Everton aren't blessed with too many aerial threats.
I can't see past a convincing Liverpool victory here - it seems impossible for Everton to stop their rampant front four. Martina, playing out of position at left-back, looks the weakest of Everton's defenders - so I'll back Liverpool's probable right-winger Mane to score, at 2.486/4.
The Betfair Trader - Alan Thompson
Liverpool are fourth going into this huge game having won five of their last six Premier League games. They are 14 points behind trailblazing City but perhaps more importantly only one point ahead of Arsenal in fifth. Everton, meanwhile, despite having performed better since the appointment of Sam Allardyce are still 11 points adrift of their Merseyside rivals.
Liverpool are as good as anyone in attack and they enhanced that reputation on Wednesday evening as they battered Spartak Moscow in the Champions League. I think they can still leak goals but I am not sure Everton have the quality to genuinely trouble them.
The match odds have Liverpool overwhelming favourites at 1.331/3 and while they are plenty short enough I wouldn’t be thinking of laying them, even at this price. I think Liverpool to win to nil at around 2.47/5 would be of interest but I do worry about that defence letting one slip. Over 2.5 goals is another option but it’s as short as 1.558/15, and that price pushes you into Over 3.5 goal territory.
While I think the goals will come in the game, I think there is a good chance the majority will come from one side. So I prefer to support Liverpool in the Asian Handicap market backing Liverpool -1.5 & -2.0 at anything better than 2.111/10.