Derby mind games begin

Sion's Ghanaian striker Ebenezer Assifuah shrugging off the challenge of Jordon Ibe to equalise past Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet in their Europa League match. It was Liverpool's second 1-1 draw after a similar score away to Bordeaux. Sion lea
Sion's Ghanaian striker Ebenezer Assifuah shrugging off the challenge of Jordon Ibe to equalise past Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet in their Europa League match. It was Liverpool's second 1-1 draw after a similar score away to Bordeaux. Sion lead the group on four points. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Reds have history but not form as Toffees aim to give Rodgers more woes

LONDON • Everton manager Roberto Martinez has heaped more pressure on Liverpool counterpart Brendan Rodgers ahead of tomorrow's Merseyside derby.

The under-fire Ulsterman faced fresh disappointment following Thursday's 1-1 draw against Swiss minnows Sion in the Europa League. And hours later, Martinez claimed that the Northern Irishman can have no complaints about heightened expectations at Anfield after splurging about £300 million (S$650 million) since taking charge of the club.

"I don't think being favourites matters a lot," he said yesterday of the Reds starting with slightly better chances to win.

"But if you look at the amount of money Liverpool have spent in the last three seasons and the expectations, that would make them favourites," he added.

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Not to be outdone in front of the microphones, Rodgers claimed that he is happy for Liverpool to be regarded as favourites as such a tag is in keeping with Liverpool's status as a prestigious club.

"We will always take the favourite tag. At Liverpool, that is what you want," he told a press conference yesterday. "It just shows you're a big club and that's what we want to have here."

Rodgers was also quick to point out that he has yet to taste derby defeat, winning one and drawing five.

Martinez and his men, however, have form on their side.

The Spaniard revealed that Everton's confidence going into the game at Goodison Park "has gone through the roof" following their 3-2 comeback win over West Bromwich Albion on Monday.

That victory was enough to leapfrog Liverpool, ninth on 11 points after seven games, and take a place in the top five on 12 points.

Having already beaten champions Chelsea at home, Martinez is eyeing another famous victory.

"I know how important it is to get a victory - you only have to speak to the fans," he said of that elusive win over Liverpool. "But the only thing that matters at this stage is to get three points to take a promising start into an exciting start."

Rodgers goes into the clash with his position under mounting scrutiny following a poor run of form. The Reds won just once in their last eight matches in all competitions.

The boos that greeted Thursday's final whistle - the third time in Liverpool's past four home fixtures that a game has ended with such disgruntlement - did not just capture the prevailing mood.

They also left Rodgers in no doubt of the scale of the task he is facing to recapture fan support.

Sion, fresh from a 1-0 league defeat by Vaduz which had prompted their chairman, Christian Constantin, to describe the side as "pathetic" and "awful", represented mediocre opposition.

Yet, they ensured that Liverpool would have just two draws from their first two Group B matches, with Ebenezer Assifuah's goal cancelling out Adam Lallana's fourth-minute opener.

Rodgers insists that he has neither sought nor received reassurances from Fenway Sports Group, the club's owners, about his future.

"It's not something I look for or that I am worried about," he said.

"I am not looking for reassurances or seeking any."

THE TIMES, LONDON


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2015, with the headline 'DERBY MIND GAMES BEGIN'. Print Edition | Subscribe