The return of the oldest club competition in the world usually means a lovely opportunity to see all of those kids play again that started the third round of the League Cup game back in September. It usually means a break from the rigours of league football and an opportunity to set ourselves for a nice cup run against a lower league side who are just happy for the experience and the payday. That’s what usually happens – but not this year. No, this year fate was much more mischievous when drawing the third round of the F.A Cup for Liverpool. Instead after Liverpool were drawn out of the hat in early December, Everton’s name was the next that immediately followed.
Having recently completed our sixteenth consecutive game without defeat there is plenty of optimism around Anfield. There is always a lot of excitement around cup games and this is no different. Jurgen Klopp certainly believes that his side have a chance of doing well in this competition this season. “It’s not that you can dream every day the dream of winning silverware,” said the German. “You know you want to have it and we all know how desperate our supporters are to get something – they can believe me that we have exactly the [same] mood. We are exactly as greedy on things like that as they all are. But we have to prove it on the pitch, I cannot win the FA Cup in the press conference, so we have to be really good in the games.
Despite our own hunger for trophies though there still remains a tough game to be played. Everton haven’t had the best of seasons so far and currently find themselves on a run of four games without a win. However, this is a derby and, as the old saying goes, form can often go out the window in up games. In his press conference though Klopp seemed to show a lot of trust in his side and their ability to get a result. “That’s first of all and if we go through their awaits another top team and then another and so that’s how it is. We need to be ready always. It doesn’t help if you make it too big in front of a game because that we have pressure is a fact but it’s not allowed to feel it all of the time, you have to use it much more.” He went on. “We have to use the quality of our players, we have to use the quality of the squad to be successful at the end. I think we are on a good way but we have to prove it every day.”
That squad will be two key players short though. Mohamed Salah misses out through a knee injury picked up in the 2-1 win over Leicester last week, which is a big blow for Liverpool. Philippe Coutinho is also absent due to an apparent injury, while speculation surrounding his future at the club is rife and rumours regarding this “injury” are also abound. Nevertheless Klopp was able to confirm that both would be fit for the visit of Manchester City next Sunday. He was also able to confirm that Simon Mignolet wouldn’t be in the squad tonight, but that Loris Karius would start in goal and be deputised by Danny Ward. The other question on everyone was whether Virgil van Dijk will be making his debut in this game. The manager said van Dijk is fit but that the decision still hasn’t been made regarding his participation.
As mentioned earlier, Everton go into this game on the back of a baron run and a depressing defeat for them against Manchester United on New Years’ Day. Sam Allardyce has instilled confidence in his side since his arrival and they now seem to be playing with a gameplan. He believes that his team face no pressure going into this game. “We are in a position where we can go for it,” said Allardyce. “It is not a league game, there are no points available. It is win or bust, as simple as that. It is a cup game, different from the Premier League. There is less pressure. It is a glory game. You go out and seek the glory and try to win it. If we are to get through, we have to beat Liverpool. A draw is not good enough. My responsibility is to get this team winning. The players are professional enough today to know the size of the game and make sure they try to deliver their best. That is what they have to do – try to win on Friday night.”
Allardyce has fortified his will for this team to win over the past few days with the imminent arrival of Cenk Tosun from Besiktas. A deal that seemed as if it was hitting the skids just a couple of days ago now seems to be just hours away from being announced at the time of writing. Allardyce says there is a small chance of getting Tosun registered to play tonight but it would be “very, very tight”. One player definitely out of the game is Michael Keane who picked up a foot injury in the game against United on Monday. Leighton Baines and Ross Barkley, another with concerns over his future, will also not feature at Anfield tonight, while Idrissa Gana Gueye is doubtful due to a hamstring complaint.
With two sides missing key players and making a myriad of changes, this promises to be a fascinating game. There are so many factors that contribute to that. Make no mistake though, this is still a derby regardless of the competition it is being played in. A loss tonight is inexcusable and unacceptable. Liverpool should always beat Everton and tonight is no different.