Henderson And The Half Spaces

We enter the Merseyside Derby on a high after beating Manchester City in the Champions League, so this derby could not have come at a better time for us. Even though we have been picking it up lately and Everton have struggled at certain points this season, it does not mean that we let our guard down. Anything can happen in a derby match. We are currently third with an extra game played, two points behind United and two points above Tottenham. The last time we played Everton in the league we tied 1-1 at home, but we also beat them in the FA Cup. Unfortunately our injury list has taken quite a hit. Can and Matip are out for the season, and we do not know if Salah will be back. Lallana and Klavan are also question marks.

Although it is a derby, we do have to think about the Champions League return leg this week as well. I will admit this may be the wrong move, but I think some rotations are in order. I would go with Karius; Clyne (!), VVD, Lovren, Moreno; Henderson, Wijaldum, Ox; Ings, Solanke, Mane. I would also strongly consider switching Milner with the Ox at half, as well as Firmino with Mane.

In an attacking sense I think we change our game a bit, since we will not have that speed up top like we usually do. My game plan for this game would be to try to free up Henderson in the right half space so he can deliver balls into Ings and Solanke. We do this by manipulating Everton into thinking we will attack down the left with Mane. He should be as high and wide as possible, hopefully causing the Everton right back to shift over to the wing, and therefore bringing the rest of the Everton back line with him. The Everton midfielders will shift over as well to provide pressure on our ball carrier down that side. Moreno can threaten the back line as well with runs behind the back line. All these threatening runs and movements will distract our opponents, and Henderson will be left free in the right half space. If we can find him in this area with time as well, he will be able to whip in his trademark balls into the box for Solanke and Ings to get something on to it.

Defensively I think this is a kind of game where we may not have to alter as much. As long as everyone is on the same page, then they should adjust to us, not the other way around. So we stick with our horizontally compact 4-3-3, and perhaps leave a larger gap between our forward line and midfield line to lure Everton into playing here, so we can then swarm and win the ball back. Only difference now being that instead of going full throttle and attack with speed, we possess the ball a bit. Ings and Solanke are not counter attacking demons, so perhaps dictating the tempo and circulating the ball when we win it will be the way to go.

Overall I see the same score as the FA Cup match, 2-1 for the Reds.