With neither the red nor the blue half of Merseyside, particularly having settled into their rhythm; the 223rd Merseyside derby seems the perfect game for both teams to move over their as-of-yet lacklustre showings and kick-start their seasons.
Here are the 3 major talking points before the game:
1. Will Sturridge be fit?
As the Merseyside derby approaches, Kopites all over the world await with bated breath over the fitness of their England striker Daniel Sturridge. Injured on England duty, Liverpool have looked toothless in attack without their number 15. His speed, direct running, clever footwork and almost telepathic link-up play with Raheem Sterling have been sorely missed; and with Rodgers admitting it will be touch and go; the red half of Merseyside will be hoping the medical Gods do them a favour and ensure Sturridge can repeat his heroics of the last Merseyside derby.
2. Will the diamond persist?
Brendan Rodgers decided to go with a 4-2-3-1 formation against Middlesbrough this mid-week. And although Liverpool came out winners, Rickie Lambert looked completely lost up front, with only Sterling looking like being anywhere close to threatening the Boro goal. Liverpool have looked most potent with 2 up top, with Sterling at the tip of the diamond. However, the Reds have been visited by the injury fairy very early and with only Henderson and Gerrard fit to start, it remains to be seen who slots into the third midfield position if the diamond is indeed deployed. It will be interesting to see whether Rodgers decides to start Lallana who still looks rusty, and started the midweek game; or whether he chooses Suso, who impressed in his cameo against Boro or re-instate the out of sorts Coutinho back into the starting line up.
3. Can the defence step up?
The Liverpool defence saw a major re-shuffle this transfer window, with the arrivals of Alberto Moreno, Javier Manquillo and Dejan Lovren for a combined fee of around 40m GBP. And when you spend that kind of money on defence, the results have to be immediate. And although the Spanish duo of Moreno and Manquillo have made good, steady start to life at Anfield; the same cannot be said of Lovren or Sakho. The lack of a permanent centre-half pairing has plagued Liverpool ever since Sami Hyypia left. And although Jamie Carragher’s positioning and leadership papered over the cracks; his retirement has revealed that sometimes it is not expensive defenders that you need; but just brave and vocal ones. And although both Sakho and Lovren are excellent organisers; the lack of authority of goalkeeper Simon Mignolet over his own penalty box, the lack of regular playing time as a pairing and the communication gap has been prominently, and worryingly for Liverpool, constantly been exposed by opposition attackers . Rodgers will have his task cut out when it comes to who starts this derby, and if the Reds defence can somehow cling to a clean sheet; it is highly possible Liverpool can go on and win it. If not, then I expect the Toffees to atleast take away a point from the game.
Either ways, this is the one game where the form-book well and truly goes out the window. And so no matter what players are sent out, expect two very evenly matched teams to go out and fearlessly attack each other. And for the Reds fans, don’t forget to have your heart medicines before this one.