Sunday 25 February 2018

McCarthy's back on track with Toffees as he calls on fans to show derby passion

Irish midfielder giving manager Koeman a selection headache as he pushes for starting role against Liverpool, writes Carl Markham

James McCarthy challenges Francis Coquelin during Everton’s victory against Arsenal. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters
James McCarthy challenges Francis Coquelin during Everton’s victory against Arsenal. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters

James McCarthy is banking on Everton's fans creating another memorable occasion at Goodison Park when Liverpool head across Stanley Park tonight.

The 227th Merseyside derby is the last Premier League fixture before Christmas, with the Reds looking to keep their title challenge afloat and the Toffees revelling in the idea of knocking them off track.

The home fans need no encouragement to get themselves up for what is always a special date on their calendar, but McCarthy has reminded them just how much their passion is appreciated after the raucous reaction to a surprise win over Arsenal last week.

"The fans responded after a few tackles and Arsenal knew they were in a game," he said.

Excited

"It was a really great atmosphere and now we're looking to the derby. The fans will come out in their numbers, as always, and within the squad we know how massive the game is. We look forward to it.

"Under the floodlights at Goodison you can see the atmosphere and it's one you want, one we're all really excited about.

"It's definitely always a big game, it's your rivals and you want to get one over them. When Monday comes, we'll be ready."

Ireland midfielder McCarthy has struggled for regular game time this year, but has started the last two matches and is eager to take on Jurgen Klopp's men.

Injuries and an unseemly club-versus-country row appeared to be derailing his season, if not his Everton career, but he acquitted himself well against a strong Gunners midfield on Tuesday.

Manager Ronald Koeman now has a call to make, with Idrissa Gueye a virtual certainty to start and veteran Gareth Barry available after sitting it out last time.

That McCarthy is even providing the Dutchman with a headache is a sign of how his standing has improved, along with his conditioning, in recent weeks.

"I understand that I need to make a decision... I'm happy that I have different options and I will choose the best one," said Koeman.

"It was a long time that he (McCarthy) was not really at that level of fitness. He was struggling, then he was fit, but after one or two weeks again a hamstring injury.

"Now he's really on a good level of fitness and the player can show the best of him.

"I think we saw from James his performance was outstanding against Arsenal. The reaction from him after 20 minutes, which most of the players followed, made it difficult for Arsenal."

Koeman has, however, called for his Everton players to keep cool in what is likely to be a white-hot festive atmosphere.

"Of course it's not a normal match, we know about the derby rivalry between Everton and Liverpool, but my position is to prepare the team and always in these kind of derbies you have an emotional part, and that you need to control. I think it's the most important thing," he said.

"We showed last Tuesday two different faces in the game. Everybody knows which face we like to have from the start in the game and that's what we need.

"The derby is all about the fans and we understand that, but we need to be calm and stay with 11 on the pitch."

Koeman is no stranger to derbies, having played for or managed the likes of Ajax, Barcelona and Benfica.

He said: "My favourite was between Barcelona and (Real) Madrid because of that rivalry between Catalonia and Madrid, and it's not only the football side, it's also a little bit the political side involved in that game.

"That was really special, but I'm looking forward to being part of the Merseyside derby."

Merseyside derby - by the numbers

226 - Total previous meetings.

89 - Liverpool victories

66 - Everton victories

48 - Number of Premier League meetings

20 - Liverpool's Premier League wins

9 - Everton's Premier League wins

12 - Liverpool's unbeaten run in derbies

27 - Number of red cards (Liverpool 9, Everton 18)

5- Number of players sent off in the first 88 years of meetings.

21 - Number of red cards shown since the Premier League began in 1992.

2003 - The last time Everton were awarded a penalty in the derby (David Unsworth scored at Goodison in April 2003)

1931 - The last time a hat-trick was scored by an Everton player in the fixture (Dixie Dean - left - at Anfield in September 1931)

Irish Independent

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