The Big Match

Football: Breaking jinx will be so sweet for Everton

Liverpool's Steven Gerrard reacting during the charity soccer match between Liverpool Legends and Real Madrid Legends at Anfield in Liverpool, Britain, on March 25, 2017.
Liverpool's Steven Gerrard reacting during the charity soccer match between Liverpool Legends and Real Madrid Legends at Anfield in Liverpool, Britain, on March 25, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

Everton aim to keep up their good form with first Anfield win in 18 years as United loom

An era ended in November. Steven Gerrard announced his retirement. If Liverpool mourned, it was a moment for Everton to reflect, too.

Gerrard was the last man still playing who had featured in their most recent Premier League win at Anfield, a teenage substitute who was sent off after Kevin Campbell scored the decisive goal in 1999.

Eighteen years later, Everton cross Stanley Park as Merseyside's form team, looking to end a hex.

David Moyes famously never won at Anfield. Roberto Martinez never won a Merseyside derby at all. Ronald Koeman lost his first, defeated in injury time by Sadio Mane in December.

Liverpool do not just possess the derby pedigree that threatens to render their uncertain form in 2017 irrelevant: They have an extraordinary unbeaten record against their peers.

This is the Reds' last game of the season against top-seven opponents, and thus the last chance for any of the contenders to defeat Jurgen Klopp's big-game players.

Everton do not just need to win for the purposes of making history. They have lost just once in 12 league games since the Reds won 1-0 at Goodison on Dec 19. Having clawed themselves back into Champions League contention, they now face Liverpool and Manchester United in four days. Lose both and, as Koeman has accepted, their chances of a top-four finish are over.

They have already suffered losses in an international break that has damaged both clubs, with Ramiro Funes Mori, James McCarthy and the crucial Seamus Coleman sidelined. If Morgan Schneiderlin is not fit, Gareth Barry will start, and Everton lost the impetus in December's derby when the slow veteran came on.

That was a fast, frenetic game, just as Klopp likes it, but with precious little class.

Liverpool's action-packed draw against Manchester City two weeks ago may provide a guideline for today's clash.

But the man who ought to have won that, and who could have capitalised on Barry's presence, is absent himself. Adam Lallana's thigh injury suffered on international duty leaves Liverpool's resources looking stretched.

And the industrious midfielder's absence could be costly. This match could be determined by who can keep on running fastest and furthest.

Despite conceding in added time three months ago, Everton are specialists in scoring late goals.

Romelu Lukaku is especially deadly at the death, making him the division's leading marksman. His 21 goals is the combined tally of Liverpool's two top scorers, Mane and Roberto Firmino, and Klopp faces a choice whether to recall Dejan Lovren to counter the striker.

Despite the fine form of Lukaku and Ross Barkley in his free role, Everton may be cautious. Their last visit to Anfield ended in a 4-0 humiliation when Martinez's tactics were naive.

They are a much-changed team since then, but notably have only one away win in 2017.

Their renaissance has been inspired in part by Tom Davies, the lively local in midfield. He will not remember Campbell's goal. He was only one at the time.

LIVERPOOL V EVERTON

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2017, with the headline 'Breaking jinx will be so sweet'. Print Edition | Subscribe