Everton vs Liverpool combined XI: Who gets into the side ahead of the Merseyside derby?
Everton and Liverpool will go head-to-head for the 224th Merseyside Derby on Saturday evening.
After a terrible start to the season Brendan Rodgers’ team now top the Premier League form guide after taking 16 points from their last six matches, the New Year’s day draw against Leicester City the only blot in their copy book during that time.
The Reds are now seventh in the division but just five points off third-place Manchester United. With Daniel Sturridge back from injury, they look primed to make a real run at the Champions League spots between now and the end of the season.
Everton, meanwhile, may have scraped a 1-0 win away at a resurgent Crystal Palace last weekend, but that was just their second win in all competitions stretching back to November.
Before that Palace game their sole win in December and January had been at home to Queens Park Rangers; Roberto Martinez’s team have picked up just nine points from a possible 33 since beating West Ham on 22 November.
But, as hackneyed the saying goes, form goes well out of the window on derby day. Liverpool will be looking to continue their great momentum and Everton to kick-start their season.
With the two teams playing such different formations (Everton 4-2-3-1 and Liverpool 3-4-1-1) it’s difficult to decide on a combined team, but we’ve given it a go
Goalkeeper: Simon Mignolet
This isn’t exactly a vintage tie for goalkeepers with the Belgian struggling this season, though he has been much improved in recent weeks.
Tim Howard, out through injury, would run him close despite a poor season of his own, while Joel Robles is a weak link for the Toffees.
Right back: Seamus Coleman
This position was one of the hardest to choose because it pitted an out-and-out full-back against Liverpool’s third centre-back.
Emre Can is very talented and looks to have a great future ahead of him, in defence and midfield, but he is a potential weak link in the defence while Coleman remains one of the better right-backs in the division – even if he exposes his centre-backs a little bit too often.
Centre half: John Stones
The demise of Sylvain Distin has been sad to see but Stones has all the tools to be a top-class defender in the future, for club and country.
He is a little over-confident in possession sometimes and can get caught on the ball. Mamadou Sakho has all the physical tools to succeed in the Premier League but is too prone to lapses in concentration.
Centre Half: Martin Skrtel
Phil Jagielka’s poor form is one of the biggest reasons Everton have slipped so far this season, the England man was a rock last year but has really struggled this term.
Skrtel has his critics – he’s slow and not the most comfortable on the ball – but he is a solid defender.
Left back: Leighton Baines
The England left-back is probably Everton’s biggest attacking threat, with great set-piece delivery and an unbridled willingness to get forward.
Defensively he is suspect, however, but his eight assists push him past the improving Alberto Moreno.
Holding midfielder: Lucas Leiva
The Brazilian holding midfielder is not quite back to his very, very best, but he is close.
Lucas has been pivotal in Liverpool’s return to form, providing the perfect screen for the defence and allowing their other players to push forward without hesitation. Besic has improved as the season has gone on – and out-performed Gareth Barry - but is not quite up to Lucas’ level.
Holding midfielder: Steven Gerrard
In the battle of the geriatric former England midfielders, Gerrard edges past Barry.
Back when these teams met in September Barry would have been picked but he has regressed hugely this season after his brilliant loan spell last year.
Gerrard was suffering at the start of the season but has improved since being pushed slightly further forward by Rodgers.
Holding midfielder: Jordan Henderson
Another anomaly sees central midfielder/jack of all trades Jordan Henderson face-off with out-and-out winger Kevin Mirallas.
Lazar Markovic might have battled Mirallas but he has been ruled out of the game. The Belgian Mirallas has been seemingly trying to find a way out of Goodison Park in the last month and needs to show the form and goals to match his clear talent.
Jordan Henderson is one of Liverpool’s most important players, providing drive and energy from midfield, as well as filling in as a wing-back when needed.
Attacker: Philippe Coutinho
Since suffering the injury that kept him out of the World Cup in the summer, Ross Barkley has unfortunately not been the same player.
Where he scored six goals last season he has just one so far this term. Coutinho can drift in and out of games but has undoubtable match-winning talent; as shown by the fantastic goal he scored against Bolton in midweek.
Attacker: Raheem Sterling
In Daniel Sturridge’s absence Sterling, still only 20, became Liverpool’s most important player.
He has six goals in his last 11 in all competitions and provides a direct, lightning fast threat that defenders hate to deal with. Steven Naismith is an important player for Roberto Martinez, and can be a match-winner, but even the most blue-nosed Everton fan would gladly swap him for Sterling.
Striker: Romelu Lukaku
Picking the Belgian ahead of the England striker was easily the hardest decision to make and could go either way.
Lukaku has not played like the £28m striker Everton thought they were getting in the summer, with just 10 goals in 31 matches so far this season.
But Daniel Sturridge, as good as he has looked on his return, has played just 50 minutes of football since his return. Lukaku needs to live up to his hefty price-tag if Everton are to win this game and improve during the rest of the season.
Independent News Service