Liverpool vs Everton
It doesn’t get much bigger in terms of domestic cup football, and when you add one of the game’s most successful head coaches into the mix it becomes a potential classic.
FA Cup: Liverpool vs Everton was the tie of the third round when it was drawn out of the hat even before Carlo Ancelotti had arrived at Goodison Park.
In a managerial career that has spanned Europe, the new Everton boss has won the Champions League with Real Madrid, the Bundesliga with FC Bayern, Serie A with Milan and the Premier League with Chelsea.
Ancelotti also won the FA Cup with the Blues in 2010. But for now, all he needs to do is win one game to become an Everton legend. The Toffees have lived in the shadow of the Reds for decades, and now Liverpool look nailed on to win a first league title in 30 years.
With Liverpool relentlessly pursuing the league title I expect Jurgen Klopp to make changes, whereas Everton should field a full-strength side.
So when they cross Stanley Park to take up their seats at Anfield, the Everton fans will know they have a real chance.
How good can Everton be?
Since Ancelotti’s arrival, two wins have taken the Toffees up to relative mid-table comfort in the Premier League table.
It made little sense to see Everton in the bottom three approaching the mid-point of the season, but nerves were beginning to shred before the arrival of Ancelotti and a turnaround in performance levels.
Duncan Ferguson did a superb job as caretaker by overseeing draws with Manchester United and Leicester City to steady the ship, and the big Scot has a big role in Ancelotti’s team.
The Italian boss turned draws into wins with a Boxing Day victory over Burnley followed by a win against Newcastle United.
After scoring a late winner against the Clarets and hitting a brace against Newcastle United, Dominic Calvert-Lewin has now reached eight Premier League goals. Alongside him is Richarlison who has bagged seven, and the Brazilian scored in the New Years Day 2-1 defeat to Manchester City.
These two strikers are benefitting from the return to form of Gylfi Sigurdsson and a good supply of crosses from wing-backs Lucas Digne and Seamus Coleman.
Ancelotti will look to strengthen in the transfer window but he has plenty of quality in his squad to build on.
Should Liverpool be worried?
The Red juggernaut just keeps on rolling, but there have been occasions when Klopp’s team has needed to dig deep, as they did in a narrow win over Wolves with a big helping hand from VAR.
And they kept their remarkable unbeaten Premier League record in tact with a 2-0 win over Sheffield United on Thursday, with Mo Salah and Sadio Mane on target yet again.
The Premier League title is already within touching distance, and the Reds will be desperate to avoid picking up any unnecessary injuries to risk derailing their title march.
They will be without Naby Keita for the Cup derby after picking up a groin injury, and with a hefty dose of kidology Klopp said, “That makes it 12 adult players we have, so that’s not cool, but we cannot change it.”
January signing Takumi Minamino has followed the path from Red Bull Salzburg to Liverpool already taken by Keita and Mane, and surely he’ll get a start against Everton. And I also expect to see Adam Lallana and Divock Origi to feature.
Both Mersey giants have had plenty of joy in the FA Cup, Liverpool winning the trophy seven times between 1965 and 2006, while the Toffees have won it five times.
In the last 57 meetings between these two rivals, the Reds have had the better of the Liverpool vs Everton results, winning 25 to the Toffees’ nine, and there have been 23 draws.
The recent 5-2 thumping handed out to Everton in the league saw the end of former head coach Marco Silva, but the five previous meetings have all been close affairs with three draws and two single goal victories for Liverpool.
Two years ago, the two teams met here at Anfield at this stage of the FA Cup and the Reds ran out 2-1 winners.
Virgil van Dijk made a dream start to his Liverpool career after completing his £75m move from Southampton, scoring an 83rd-minute winner after Sigurdsson had equalised James Milner’s penalty.
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