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More than derby day bragging rights on the line for Liverpool at Anfield

There are three derbies down for decision in the Premier League on Sunday.

AFTER THE DISAPPOINTMENT of Paris, comes the standout fixture in Liverpool’s domestic calendar. No better way for Jurgen Klopp’s side to get back on track than a derby day victory, but that in itself brings its own pressure.

Walking a Champions League tightrope following Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat to PSG, the Reds have no time to lick their wounds as their attention reverts back to Premier League action on Sunday, and the visit of bitter rivals Everton to Anfield.

VIPs Watch PSG v Liverpool Klopp is wary of the threat Everton will pose on Sunday. Source: Liewig Christian/ABACA

Klopp’s Liverpool have barely put a foot wrong in the league, negotiating the first 13 games unbeaten to sit just two points behind pacesetters Manchester City, while only conceding five goals.

But their European form, and particularly the midweek performance, has revealed the first cracks in the Reds camp and a resurgent Toffees outfit will make the short trip across Merseyside intent on taking advantage.

Everton have not won at Anfield since 1999 — a remarkable statistic in its own right, and an indication of the size of the task awaiting Marco Silva’s charges — but there may be no better time to end that barren run.

Granted Liverpool will be hurting from Wednesday, no doubt keen to rebound and continue their Premier League surge, while also lifting spirits again ahead of that do-or-die clash against Napoli on the horizon.

Successive away defeats in Europe to Red Star Belgrade and PSG have raised questions about Liverpool’s trophy-winning potential under Klopp, and whether they have the capacity to reach last season’s levels. 

The goalscoring form of their forward three, or lack there of it, is one of the areas under intense inspection.  

Roberto Firmino was the latest member of last season’s impressive forward line to come in for criticism, with the Brazilian hitting the net just three times this term, while his creativity and overall influence has certainly dipped. 

Among many factors put forward for Liverpool’s slight drop off in attacking prowess, fatigue seems one of the most obvious, with Klopp adamant that he will maintain strong bids for success in both the Premier and Champions Leagues.

Liverpool have played 18 games in both competitions to date, with Firmino and Mohamed Salah having featured in every one of them. Sadio Mane has missed just one.

But, after starting the season with seven consecutive wins inside the opening six weeks, Liverpool have won five times in 12 league and cup games in the 10 weeks since. 

“I don’t understand why we needed a defeat in Paris to be fully motivated for the Everton game,” Klopp told the media this afternoon.

“It’s a special game. Since I’ve been here, it always felt different, always was different during the preparation. The only bad thing is that we never have enough time to really prepare for it.

“You have a big game, then a few days later you play the next one. In an ideal world, we would have a week to prepare for it. All the rest is exactly like it should be.

“The games were always difficult in the past few years, but the improvement of Everton is obvious. It’s a completely different team, a different style.”

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Liverpool go into Sunday’s derby 11 points ahead of Everton, but the Toffees have put together their best run of the campaign, picking up 16 points in their last seven Premier League outings to rise to sixth.

Following a disappointing time last season, in which Everton struggled through three different managers in Ronald Koeman, caretaker David Unsworth and then Sam Allardyce, Silva finally appears to have discovered a winning formula at Goodison Park.

Silva’s summer swoop for Brazilian Richarlison from his former club Watford has proved an unqualified success with the 21-year-old forward the club’s joint leading league scorer with six goals.

Significantly, two of Everton’s three defeats have come when Richarlison has been missing from Silva’s line-up, an indication of his importance to his new team’s style of play.

And Klopp believes the current Everton squad poses the biggest threat to their neighbours and feels they would have no trouble competing at the top end in any other league in Europe.

“Since I’ve been here, Everton has always been really busy, but this is the best-tuned squad, 100%,” he added.

Everton v Cardiff City - Premier League - Goodison Park Richarlison has been a key player for Everton. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

“They brought in a player that he [Silva] wanted because he knew him — Richarlison, and what a player he is. Last year [Theo] Walcott came in, then Bernard came in this year, [Andre] Gomes came in this year, [Lucas] Digne came in this year.

“Everything is there, creativity, speed, good organisation. [Seamus] Coleman is back and fit, [Micheal] Keane settled and fit — and a brilliant player for their build-up –  then Digne is like the young [Leighton] Baines, if you want. They have a really good team, then England’s number one in goal [in Jordan Pickford].

“That is a proper squad, and it would be in all leagues in Europe. I’m 100%  sure they would be a European team in whichever competition. In England it’s quite difficult, yet their development and improvement is obvious.”

Liverpool may be second, and unbeaten in the league this season, but they’ve plenty of questions to find answers for. Sunday would be the perfect time to start. 

Premier League fixtures:

Friday:

  • Cardiff v Wolves, 8pm

Saturday:

  • Crystal Palace v Burnley, 3pm
  • Huddersfield v Brighton, 3pm
  • Leicester v Watford, 3pm
  • Manchester City v Bournemouth, 3pm
  • Newcastle v West Ham, 3pm
  • Southampton v Manchester United, 5.30pm

Sunday:

  • Chelsea v Fulham, 12pm
  • Arsenal v Tottenham, 2.05pm
  • Liverpool v Everton, 4.15pm 

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Ryan Bailey

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