PREVIEW | Liverpool v Everton (Premier League)

Liverpool kick off their festive fixture list at home to Everton — three points against a Toffees side that has made live difficult for the Reds in recent years will be the perfect start to a very difficult month.

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Liverpool welcome their Merseyside rivals to Anfield as they look to continue their unbeaten start to the season by heaping further misery on an Everton side flirting dangerously with the relegation zone.

The Reds extended their lead at the top of the table by a point at the weekend. Their win over Brighton increases the gap between themselves and City to 11, but Leicester City closed the gap back to eight after a late win over the Toffees.

Conceding so late and after a lengthy VAR review on Sunday will have hurt Everton. They were on their way to doing Liverpool a huge favour when they took the lead, but the Foxes responded with two goals in the last 20 minutes to ensure they stayed within reach of the league leaders.

Recent form

Once again, Liverpool had to work hard to earn another valuable three points against Brighton. When Virgil van Dijk scored twice in six minutes, it looked as if the Reds were heading to a pretty routine victory. If it not for a typically excellent performance from goalkeeper Mat Ryan, Liverpool could have been four or five goals ahead by half-time.


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Alisson handled the ball outside the penalty area which resulted in the Brazilian receiving the first red card of his Liverpool career. Adrián came on and conceded a couple of seconds later and Lewis Dunk took a quick free-kick which rolled past the Spaniard, occupied by setting up his wall.

Brighton took control as they looked to find an equaliser, but their only chance came after our substitute goalkeeper almost dropped the ball into his own net. The victory meant Liverpool are now considered safe from relegation having picked 40 points from a possible 42.

Everton sit just above the relegation zone — their form over the past few weeks has been quite poor. They have lost three of their last five games and have just picked up four points in that time.

When they earned four points against Tottenham and Southampton it looked as if their season was making a turn for the better after a poor start. Late goals saw them secure the points with both being scored after 75th minute.

Normal services resumed after the international break. A 2-0 loss at home to Norwich City saw them fall even closer to the drop zone as second-half goals from Todd Cantwell and Denis Srbeny gave the visitors their first away win of the season, compounding the pressure on manager Marco Silva

Their next game saw them travel to an inform Leicester City side whose title charge has gone under the radar in recent weeks. The Toffees took the lead against Leicester through Richarlison, Jamie Vardy levelled for the home side 20 minutes from full-time. Just as it looked Leicester were going to drop points, substitute Kelechi Iheanacho scored a superb solo goal to snatch the three points at the death.

Team news

Liverpool have no new injury concerns — Fabinho and Joël Matip are the only absentees. It looked as if the Cameroonian was nearing a return from injury but word from the club is that he will be out for a couple of months.

Alison Becker is suspended after his dismissal at the weekend, but he will be available for the weekend clash with Bournemouth. Adrián should be the only change in Liverpool starting XI.

Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold may have a frustrating game. Everton restricted Leicester City’s full-backs at the weekend which resulted them in having to create chances in midfield. This should mean that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will play instead of James Milner, to help break down what is likely to be a stubborn visiting defence.

Naby Keïta could have started on the left of a 4-2-3-1, but the Guinean’s fitness is a concern so he will likely miss out.

Everton will look to give our full-backs little time on the ball — against Leicester they often doubled up on Ben Chilwell and Ricardo Pereira which affected the Foxes’ attacking influence on the game. Due to the majority of Liverpool chances coming from the Reds’ full-backs, expect them to set up in a similar fashion at Anfield.

Lucas Digne will be helped by Richarlison to stop Trent, while Alex Iwobi and Djibril Sidibé will look to hamper Robertson’s efforts to get up the pitch.

Tom Davies and Gylfi Sigurðsson are not the strongest but Morgan Schneiderlin could be used as the enforced. They will be aided by the two wingers dropping deep to tighten things in the centre of the park.

Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin will be dangerous on the break, with Dejan Lovren likely to be targeted by the duo. But if the Croat performs as he has done in recent weeks, he should have no trouble as long as he doesn’t needlessly push anyone in our box.

Prediction

Form always goes out the windows for a derby. Liverpool sit top of the table, 26 points ahead of Everton, but the contest will make it seem like the points gap is much lower than that — it always does.

Liverpool usually step up their game when big sides come to Anfield, but they have not put in a convincing performance against Everton over the past couple of seasons.

The winter schedule is well underway which means the likelihood of points being dropped is increased, Liverpool need to hold onto their lead at the top of the table for as long as possible, if they can earn three points over Everton then it will give the club a huge boost over the coming weeks.

Predicted final score: Liverpool 2-1 Everton

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