The 224th Merseyside derby has begun to loom prominently over the horizon and, as has become customary over the years, Evertonians will have started to silently dread the upcoming clash.
Despite only recording one win over their rivals in the last ten encounters, however, there is reason to be optimistic over Everton recording a first victory over Liverpool since 17th October 2010.
The Blues’ wretched run of form since 15th December 2014 has been well documented by Roberto Martinez, his players, Eveton supporters and the media alike and, coupled with the Reds’ own recent revival, which has seen Brendan Rodgers’ side lose just one of the last twelve league and cup matches and climb to sixth place in the Premier League standings, all facts and statistics would point towards a victory for the team from Anfield.
The Toffees, though, do have reason to be hopeful of getting one over their fierce rivals this weekend.
The stalemate againt West Bromwich Albion coupled with Saturday’s 1-0 away victory, against Crystal Palace, ensured that Roberto Martinez’s men recorded back to back clean sheets for the first time since the start of November – as well as obtaining that elusive first three point haul in the league since mid-December – which will buoy a Blues rearguard ahead of a Liverpool front line that will boast attacking threats such as Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge, and spread confidence throughout a squad that was bearing all the hallmarks of low self esteem throughout the recent festive period.
Additionally, in spite of a nine match winless streak against the Reds, Everton have drawn four of the last five league fixtures between the two clubs, with last season’s 4-0 drubbing at Anfield the only occasion that the 18-times English league champions have bested the Toffees over the past three seasons.
James McCarthy’s return to full fitness will also be a timely boost ahead of the contest, after the Republic of Ireland international returns from a lengthy lay off with a hamstring injury, and his presence, tenacity and tireless work rate will be instrumental, in the middle of the park, in what will be another frenetic Merseyside derby.
Goodison Park will also play host to the reverse league fixture between the two sides for the first time since the 2002/03 Premier League season. With a scheduled 5:30pm kick off, and under the hallowed floodlights of the Old Lady, a vociferous Goodison faithful is sure to draw an even greater effort and endeavour from those playing in Royal Blue.
Of course, the Toffees will have to be wary of Liverpool’s counter attacking capabilities, as well as relying on an ever improving Romelu Lukaku to lead the Everton attack with desire and gusto against a Reds defence that has shored up over recent weeks but, if the Blues still harbour ambitions of finishing high in the league, Saturday’s match provides the opportunity to completely reinvigorate their season.
If Roberto Martinez can mastermind a first triumph over Liverpool in five years, it may well ignite Everton’s faltering season and bring out the smiles around Goodison Park once more.