Everton v Liverpool: Five questions ahead of the Merseyside derby
Last Updated: 04/10/15 1:35pm
With just one point separating the Merseyside rivals in the Premier League, it promises to be a closely-fought encounter when Everton host Liverpool at Goodison Park on Sunday.
Both sides have in-form strikers at their disposal and under-pressure managers capable of springing a tactical surprise on their rival.
Here we pick out five of the talking points going into the 225th meeting between these two famous old clubs…
Liverpool finished five places above Everton last season and almost won the title the year before that, but the early signs this season are that things could be rather closer between the two Merseyside rivals.
Whoever wins on Sunday will be above the other going into October's international break and as so often the result between these neighbouring powers is certain to add to the pressure on the manager who comes off second best.
For Roberto Martinez, it would leave him still waiting for his first derby win after five attempts. For Brendan Rodgers, it would be a reminder of how far Liverpool have fallen over the past 18 months. Neither wants to be dwelling on that for a fortnight.
Has Rodgers turned the corner?
Last weekend's victory over Aston Villa ended a six-game winless streak for the Reds and plenty of pundits were predicting the worst for Rodgers during that run. But Jamie Carragher believes there were signs of promise in the home draw with Norwich.
"We're talking about a turnaround at the weekend but the Norwich performance was a lot better as they were creating chances," Carragher told Monday Night Football. The emergence of summer signing Danny Ings looks to have added some impetus.
Those defensive frailties that we've been talking about for a long time still looked like they were there at the weekend
However, question marks over the defence remain. "Those defensive frailties that we've been talking about for a long time still looked like they were there at the weekend," added Carragher. Will they be exposed at Goodison Park?
So can Liverpool deal with Lukaku?
Liverpool must stop Romelu Lukaku if they are to win on the road for the first time since the opening weekend. It'll be tricky. West Brom defender James Chester found out on Monday that even a lofted cross into the box can be anything but harmless when Lukaku is around.
The physical forward outmuscled Chester to spark a comeback that saw him score two and provide the assist for the other in Everton's 3-2 win. It was his third brace of the season, reinforcing the view that when Lukaku's confidence is up he is near unstoppable.
Dejan Lovren is injured but Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho are the sorts of characters who might be expected to relish such a challenge. Such is Lukaku's mobility, however, the Everton forward could look to pull wide instead. His success might dictate the outcome.
Can Everton stop Sturridge?
John Stones was not risked for Monday's game against West Brom at the Hawthorns as Ramiro Funes Mori was entrusted with centre-back duties in the Black Country instead. But Martinez will surely be anxious to have Stones back for the derby.
Daniel Sturridge showed just how dangerous he can be in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Aston Villa, scoring two to remind the Premier League of his potent threat. Indeed, the England striker gets his side moving in the final third with his quick one-twos.
He's the icing on the cake, Sturridge. He's the one who can provide that class finish and make the difference in the final third of the pitch.
That was enough to outfox the Villa defence and would be a test for Everton too. Ironically given Sturridge's fitness battles throughout his career, the answer to the question of whether his marker Stones is 100 per cent or not could be what sways things on Sunday.
Who will be the wildcard?
Philippe Coutinho was among the top 20 chance creators in the Premier League last season but currently finds himself outside of the top 80 this term. The little Brazilian is capable of turning a game in an instant and scored the opener on his first visit to Goodison Park. Reds fans will be hoping for a repeat.
Meanwhile, Gerard Deulofeu certainly has the backing of the Everton supporters and he followed up his goal in the cup against Reading with two assists to help turn the game around against West Brom on Monday. Will he be handed another start for the derby?
It seems so. "Gerard Deulofeu is an incredible boy," said Martinez earlier this week. "He has earned his starting position. He showed he is mature enough to understand adversity." Both teams have the wildcard options to turn this game in their favour.
Everton v Liverpool is live on Sky Sports 1 HD from 12.30pm on Sunday