A victory for Everton at Liverpool tonight will see the Blues leapfrog the Reds for the first time this season.
In this evening’s 217th Merseyside derby, David Moyes, on the eve of his 10th anniversary at Everton, is still looking for a win at Anfield after 10 attempts.
The Toffees however have drawn six of those fixtures and their heaviest defeat at Anfield was a 3-1 loss in 2006.
Moyes’ men have only been defeated twice this year and have claimed the prize scalps of Manchester City, Chelsea and Everton in the last two months.
Liverpool meanwhile are smarting from two successive league defeats after their League Cup final triumph, making Champions League qualification unlikely now.
Glen Johnson's already excited:
This fixture last season was Kenny Dalglish’s homecoming after he had replaced the sacked Roy Hodgson. Raul Meireles gave the Scot a dream start in the January fixture, but goals from Sylvain Distin and Victor Anichebe after the interval saw Everton take the lead.
But Dirk Kuyt then scored his fifth derby goal from the penalty spot after Tim Howard tripped Maxi Rodriguez to give Dalglish his first point as manager again.
Liverpool’s home record has been uncharacteristically poor this campaign. Four wins, eight draws and one defeat have hampered their European aspirations, but they are strong favourites against their neighbours who last won at Anfield in 1999.
So as the Toffees prepare to cross Stanley Park to the red side of L4, what will be the key contests between the city’s foes?
Tim Cahill nods in a memorable equaliser in 2009:
Sylvain Distin v Luis Suarez
Phil Jagielka is fit again, but since Moyes designs his side to be as difficult to beat first and free-flowing second, he may not want to upset Distin’s partnership with Johnny Heitinga after the impressive weekend display against Tottenham. Distin, so quick for someone built so burly, will be tasked with handling Suarez’s pace, whilst the uncompromising Heitinga may be left to duel with Andy Carroll, should he start. Both strikers scored at Goodison in the 2-0 September win, and with Suarez wrongly played as a lone striker, his manager would be especially misguided to play him alone against two heavyweight defenders.
Steven Gerrard v Marouane Fellaini
Lucas Leiva’s absence will be especially missed this evening. Again, Daglish should call on Jay Spearing to shield the hosts’ back four, and more critically, enable Gerrard to thrive. Fellaini was instructed not to expose Tottenham’s flat formation on Saturday and it is likelier he’ll be reined in closer tonight with Gerrard returning. With Charlie Adam not impressing as a playmaker, the onus is shifted on to Gerrard’s shoulders once more amidst a flooded midfield.
A classic 1991 cup tie which was Dalglish's last game in charge of the Reds:
Steven Pienaar v Jose Enrique
Everton have been buoyed by a January transfer window which resembled their 2003 spending spree on Kevin Kilbane, James McFadden and Nigel Martyn. The return of Steven Pienaar on loan has been warmly welcomed, along with Nikica Jelavic and Darron Gibson. Curiously however, although the South African was regularly heralded by Blues fans, he has notched just 13 goals and provided 16 assists in over four years at the club. Yet his width is an antidote to the chaos in the middle that occasionally stymies Moyes’ men. So up against Jose Enrique this evening, he faces perhaps the league’s best left-back this season, but one who has endured a mini-slump in recent weeks.