Baines happy to avoid Suarez
Published 28/04/2013 | 13:31
Everton defender Leighton Baines admits they are grateful to be facing a Luis Suarez-less Liverpool in next week's Merseyside derby.
The Reds may have smashed six past Newcastle without their banned striker - serving a 10-match suspension for biting - but Baines still believes they are a different prospect without the Uruguay international.
Just before that, Everton made hard work of beating Fulham 1-0 to record a 20th successive league win over the Cottagers at Goodison Park, maintaining the five-point cushion on their near-neighbours.
Victory at Anfield next Sunday - a ground manager David Moyes has yet to win at, with the Toffees' last victory there coming in 1999 - would give them an unassailable lead over their city rivals with two matches remaining.
That would also mean the Toffees would finish above Liverpool in successive seasons for the first time since the Reds were promoted back to the top flight in 1962. In fact, since that year the Blues have been able to look down on their nearest rivals just seven times.
"Yes, we're glad we don't have to face Luis Suarez because he's a top player and he has done so much for Liverpool this season," said the England international.
"If they had been missing him this season they probably wouldn't be where they are in the league at the moment. He will be a big loss for them. But they have got very good players throughout the team and it will be up to them to come to the fore and keep them going."
He added: "Every derby is massive because of what it is and it means so much to the fans and us as players as well. But there is no added importance because it is at the end of the season, it is just another derby."
Steven Pienaar's 16th-minute strike was the culmination of one of the few moments of real quality against Fulham. With Tottenham dropping points at Wigan, Everton moved to within three points of the fifth-placed Londoners, who do have a match in hand, to keep their hopes of European football alive.
"It keeps us as we have been really, hanging on to the teams above us, and that is all we can do," added Baines. "We have to try to keep getting good results and we've definitely done that at home."