With just two wins away from being crowned Premier League champion after 30 years, Liverpool travel to Goodison Park for a date with Everton in tomorrow’s Merseyside derby. The Reds would have loved to be crowned champions in the home of their enemy, but with Arsenal having failed to do the unthinkable against Manchester City at the Etihad on Wednesday, it means Jurgen Klopp’s side would need to secure one more victory even if they win on Sunday
It’s been over three months since Liverpool’s last Premier League outing, a 2-1 home win against Bournemouth and The Reds return to action this weekend. Sunday night sees Jürgen Klopp’s men make the short trip to Goodison Park for a Merseyside derby with a difference – no fans in the stadium.
This is the ‘new normal’. How long for, nobody seems to know. What is known however is that Liverpool are six points away from what will be the club’s 19th league title success. It’s on the way. Can they take a huge step towards securing the title with a win at Everton?
Everton sit in 12th place in the Premier League. Their last game was a 4-0 defeat away to Chelsea back in early March. Before that, The Toffees drew 1-1 at home to Manchester United and lost 3-2 at Arsenal.
Carlo Ancelotti has struggled to instil any real consistency in Everton since his arrival in December.
October 2010 was the last time Everton managed to win a derby – against a Roy Hodgson-led Liverpool.
Liverpool’s last competitive fixture was against Atletico Madrid at Anfield. Diego Simeone’s Spanish side beat The Reds 3-2 after extra time to progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
In the weeks before that, Liverpool had also exited the FA Cup at Chelsea (2-0) and suffered their first Premier League defeat of the season away to Watford (3-0).
With three and a half months away from competitive action, it’s impossible to predict what form any club will return in.
Meanwhile, ahead of the Sunday’s encounter, Everton forward Richarlison has started the mind game by taking a dig at Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk by saying there are better defenders.
Van Dijk has been one of the outstanding performers this season but Richarlison said he can get the better of the defender.
“People talk a lot about him, yes he is a great defender but I’ve already dribbled past him,” he told Desimpedidos.
“He was chosen as one of the top three in the world as he had an excellent season. But yes, for me there are better defenders.”
When asked about who Richarlison considers to be better, he replied: “Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Sergio Ramos.”
Since his move to Anfield from Southampton in 2018, Van Dijk has been instrumental and played a key part in Liverpool winning the Champions League and the Club World Cup last year.
The derby will take place on Merseyside despite police chiefs advocating it should be played at a neutral venue to prevent supporters from congregating outside the stadium and violating social distancing rules amid the coronavirus pandemic.
If Liverpool beat Everton, Klopp’s side can seal the title at Anfield against Crystal Palace on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Arsenal will be looking to recover from a dampening 3-0 defeat to Manchester City when they travel to the South Coast to take on Brighton & Hove Albion this afternoon.
Brighton will be looking for their first win of 2020 as they return to action following a three-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As the only side in the Premier League yet to taste victory since the turn of the decade, Brighton are firmly embroiled in a relegation battle as they prepare to return to action in an empty Amex Stadium this weekend.
Indeed, Graham Potter’s men have drawn six and lost three in 2020 thus far, and their fixture list does not look all too friendly as they still have to face Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Leicester City in the next couple of months.
The outlook does not look good for the Seagulls as they lie in 15th, two points above the relegation zone after 29 matches, and they are without victory on home turf since their 2-0 win over Bournemouth back in December.
Brighton have performed relatively well against some of the Premier League’s household names at the Amex, recording victories over Tottenham Hotspur and Everton while also holding Chelsea to a draw.
14th-placed Southampton are five points above Brighton so the Seagulls cannot rise any higher with a victory, but they could plunge into the relegation zone if they suffer defeat and West Ham United, Watford and Bournemouth all pick up wins this weekend.
Mikel Arteta returned to familiar surroundings as he reunited with Pep Guardiola at the Etihad on Wednesday, but the student was outdone by the master as Manchester City cruised to a 3-0 victory to end Arsenal’s unbeaten run in 2020.
Since the turn of the year, Arteta had guided Arsenal to four draws and four wins in the Premier League before the enforced suspension, but a second 3-0 defeat to City this season means they remain eight points adrift of the top four in ninth.
To make matters worse, Burnley and Crystal Palace sit just one point behind the Gunners at this stage, and while it seems incomprehensible for the Gunners to finish in the bottom half of the table, they cannot afford any more performances like the one at the Etihad if they are to keep their European hopes alive.
The Gunners are now visiting a ground where they are yet to taste victory since Brighton’s promotion to the top flight.