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    Everton vs Liverpool Match Preview

    Everton will be bidding to win a Merseyside derby for the first time in 11 attempts on Sunday when they entertain a Liverpool side that has only lost four times in the fixture this century. The last time the blue half of the City recorded a victory was five years ago this month, when they won 2-0 at Goodison Park in a side featuring six players who have remained at the club throughout their torrid derby day run.

    The Toffees will see this the perfect opportunity of ending their derby day woes after making an uncustomary good start to a season, facing a team that has been plagued by inconsistency, despite only two defeats in all competitions this season. Everton come into the match in excellent form after wins over Chelsea three weeks ago and West Brom on Monday night, where Roberto Martinez's team recovered from 2-0 down to win 3-2.

    Liverpool will need to bounce back from a disappointing draw against Swiss side FC Sion on Thursday night, albeit an evening where Brendan Rodgers made seven changes from last weekend's win over Aston Villa. It was another set-back just five days after many thought they had turned the corner following a morale-boosting win over Villa in a match that many believed Rodgers could ill-afford to lose if he hoped to remain as manager.

    Daniel Sturridge, who was rested for Thursday's Europa League encounter, provided the kind of clinical finishing that his Liverpool side have been lacking for much of the last year last weekend as his side scored three goals for the first time in 28 matches. The most worrying aspect of the performance, however, was how the Reds' defence, which has conceded 12 goals in their last 7 games, was exposed on both occasions that they had opened up a two-goal lead and this enabled Villa a stronghold back into the game.

    Despite fears that Rodgers is under pressure, no English team involved in European competition this season have lost fewer matches than Liverpool, who remain fully involved in all four competitions they entered. A win on Sunday and the Reds could leapfrog their local rivals in the league table and climb into the top six, narrowing the gap on current leaders Manchester City to four points in the process.

    If Everton are to record their first win in a Merseyside derby since October 2010, they will need Romalu Lukaku to continue the excellent form he has shown so far this season, where he has scored six goals in nine matches for the Toffees. On his day, the Belgian international is almost unplayable but he has often failed to show the level of consistency throughout his time at Everton that his undeniable talent merits, although 42 goals for the club since August 2013 is a more than healthy total.

    John Stones, if fit, and Phil Jagielka will have a key roles to play in keeping Daniel Sturridge quiet, with the Liverpool striker scoring three goals in his past four Merseyside derbies. The Everton defence have kept three clean sheets in the league this season, and Stones and Jagielka have been instrumental to the club's good start to the season. Despite this, Sturridge, who remains fresh after being rested from the rigours of Thursday's Europa League clash, will be encouraged by the fact that the Toffees have conceded seven goals in seven league matches so far this season.

    Philippe Coutinho will also need to be at his very best if Liverpool are to continue their dominance in this fixture, having failed to score since the opening weekend of the season against Stoke. In so many tight games, as this match-up has the potential to be, the Brazilian can prove the difference between the two sides with his ingenuity from midfield, combined with his long-range shooting which has caused problems for so many teams since the start of the year.

    Everton's record in the most recent Merseyside derbies doesn't make bad reading, drawing five of the past six meetings. However, since the start of the new Millennium, the Toffees have only won 4 matches, drawing 13 and losing 17. Tim Howard, Seamus Coleman, Tony Hibbert, Jagielka, Leighton Baines and Leon Osman remain at the club from the last time Everton won in the fixture, 11 meetings ago in October 2010.

    John Stones (knee) and Seamus Coleman (hamstring) could return to the Everton side after missing the past two and three matches respectively, although the club will have to do without the services of Kevin Mirallas, who serves the last of his three-match ban. Muhamed Besic is not expected to recover in time from his hamstring injury, while Leighton Baines (ankle), Tony Hibbert (knee), Steven Pienaar (hamstring) and Tom Cleverley (ankle) remain long-term absentees.

    Liverpool will give a late fitness test to Christian Benteke, whose hamstring injury has forced him to miss the last three matches. Roberto Firmino (back), Dejan Lovren (ankle) and Jordan Henderson (metatarsal) are not fit enough to return until after the international break, whilst Jon Flanagan (knee) remains a long-term injury doubt.

    Score Prediction: Everton 1-0 Liverpool
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    Item Reviewed: Everton vs Liverpool Match Preview Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Tufft
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