LIVERPOOL VS EVERTON
Monday 13th February, 8:00pm
Liverpool are red
Everton are blue
Be very afraid, Jürgen
Of Sean Dyche’s crew
This Monday – on the eve of St. Valentine’s Day – an epic, passion-fuelled battle for the affections of Merseyside is set to take place.
Just a few days ago Liverpool may have viewed a home tie against Everton as a fairly bankable three points:
A game to arouse some much-needed confidence in key players, and the squad as a whole. A game to deliver some highly-desired thrust – Liverpool have bagged only one Premier League goal in 2023, and that was in a 3-1 defeat at Brentford.
And a game for the club to attempt to kiss and make up with the fans at Anfield, who have become distracted and aloof in recent weeks; their minds contorted with concern that their beloved Jürgen Klopp may be on the brink of walking out.
Obviously, a Merseyside Derby could never be viewed as a leisurely stroll in Stanley Park under any circumstances, but Frank Lampard’s Everton were in undeniably wretched form – the dying embers of his desultory tenure on the cusp of finally spluttering out. Even a mid-range box of chocolates and a love-heart card from Tesco wouldn’t have been enough to salvage this particular relationship.
Despite an incongruous draw against Manchester City on New Year’s Eve, Everton couldn’t buy a victory – no wins registered in all competitions since October 22nd.
But with the effete Lampard now jilted in favour of the more robust, grit-voiced red-head Sean Dyche; Everton will be a different prospect come Monday night. The former Burnley boss unveiled himself with a devastating display of Dychian dark-arts against table-topping Arsenal last weekend; the kind of performance that left home fans in raptures long after the final whistle had blown.
Merseyside’s most enduring icons, The Beatles, once claimed that money can’t buy you love. Whether this is true or not I can’t confirm, but I do know that it hasn’t helped Liverpool FC establish any cohesion this season.
One of the hallmarks of the Klopp-era has been shrewdness in the transfer market. Not only have the various major purchases been carefully considered, they have nearly all hit the ground running at a decent lick. Until this season, that is.
With just 5 Premier League goals for big summer signing Darwin Núñez thus far, Ian Rush’s club record is already looking secure for another generation. Cody Gakpo arrived in January with a post-World Cup glow; but he has only appeared in one club win, and has provided no goals or assists in his 7 appearances since touching down at John Lennon Airport.
Whether this paucity of output is a result of the players not being quite good enough, or a consequence of arriving at a time when the starting XI is constantly being buckled out of shape by absentees, is tricky to assess.
But with Luis Díaz, Diogo Jota, Naby Keïta, Roberto Firmino, Ibrahima Konaté, and Virgil van Dijk all taking rides of various duration on the injury carousel, it can’t be easy for the incoming talents to adapt to their new surroundings.
With a daunting trip to Newcastle set for next weekend, the pressure is very much on Liverpool to quickly establish some sort of effective and consistent rhythm, or this Premier League campaign could wilt faster than Leonardo DiCaprio stepping onto the set of Loose Women.
So which hue of Liverpool will awake on St. Valentine’s Day fully-cocked? The red or the blue? Whose fans will be brimming and inspired by the previous evening’s endeavour to write down half a dozen verses of untethered, white-hot poetry of devotion for their loved ones?
Whichever colour it is, Monday could very well be a hard day’s night…
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