Little introduction needed for tomorrow's match, which marks the 216th Merseyside Derby. Last season's encounter at Goodison was farcical from a Liverpool perspective, with the hosts dominating the match and deservedly earning a 2-0 victory that sent the Reds into the bottom three. Thankfully fortunes have changed, but what's sure to be the same is the fiery temperament that's come to be associated with the match-up, especially in recent years.
A longish week after a shaky victory isn't exactly what the doctor ordered, as it'd have been nice to see Liverpool get back on the pitch a bit sooner. That would have also meant that Liverpool would have been playing in Europe, which is another trauma unto itself, so we can just take solace in the fact that at least it's something, especially with another international break fast approaching.
It's a great way to see the club get back into action, though, with this one almost always producing something worth watching. As mentioned, Everton have had a decent start to the season after a transfer window that didn't exactly leave Toffee supporters singing Bill Kenwright's praises. David Moyes saw Mikel Arteta, James Vaughan, Jermaine Beckford, and Yakubu exit, with the only additions to the squad coming in the form of part-time murderer and forward Denis Stracqualursi, midfielder Royston Drenthe, defender Eric Dier, and journeyman goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann.
Despite the lack of activity, Moyes' side has a core that remained mostly intact. Tim Howard's the mainstay in between the posts, and Sylvain Distin, Phil Jagielka, and Leighton Baines have played all five matches in defense, with Tony Hibbert and Phil Neville splitting time at right back. They've gone with five in the midfield on a few occasions thus far, with Marouane Fellaini, Jack Rodwell, Seamus Coleman, and Leon Osman getting most of the minutes, and Tim Cahill carrying the weight in attack.
Who starts for Liverpool?
Kelly Carragher Skrtel Enrique
Kuyt Bellamy Downing
---Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson are the only two out for sure, with the former recovering from the broken rib(s) he suffered at Spurs, and the latter apparently getting close to a first-team return after re-injuring his hamstring in a substitute appearance at Stoke.
---With Johnson and Agger out, the back line is easy enough to choose, as Martin Kelly and Martin Skrtel are ready-made replacements. In the case of Kelly there's less drop-off, as he's been terrific over the past year and played well despite a concerning lack of protection against Wolves. There's a much clearer gap between Skrtel and Daniel Agger, though, and his partnership with Jamie Carragher leaves Liverpool without a center back that can bring play forward. Not a terrible partnership for the derby, but one that probably promises at least a few frightening moments.
---I've conceded that Charlie Adam will likely get the start tomorrow, even though it's mostly an attempt at a jinx that sees Dalglish pick Jay Spearing or alter the formation to suit the inclusion of both Lucas and Steven Gerrard. It's not a guarantee that Gerrard won't play, but with limited cameos last week, it might still be too soon. If we do get Lucas and Adam, we'll need to see a vast improvement from the latter, who hasn't proved himself to be a consistently reliable option in central midfield.
---Once again the front four is the most muddled, with a pool of Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson, Craig Bellamy, Dirk Kuyt, and Gerrard to choose from. Whoever Dalglish selects, they'll be included with Stewart Downing and Luis Suarez, who've been Liverpool's most impressive attacking players in the early season. I'm hoping Kuyt gets the start for obvious reasons, and I think this would be the type of match in which Bellamy could really shine.
What's the most important factor for the Reds?
They're cliché as hell, but the comments from Rafa Benitez are about as accurate as it gets for the derby:
"A derby is a derby. It doesn't matter if you have spent money or not. The passion will be there and I think it will be a fantastic game."
It won't so much be a measuring stick for Liverpool's chances at success this season as it will be a chance to see how the new-look Liverpool approaches one of the most hotly-contested matches of the season. The matches with United might have more meaning when it comes to titles and success, this is undoubtedly one that'll demand the best from Dalglish's side regardless of who's involved.
Good news for tomorrow is that there's coverage anywhere you are---Sky Sports 2 has the match in England and ESPN2 is carrying it stateside, and I'm sure it'll be televised plenty of other places as well. Usual solicitation for those of you who have a way to watch that we haven't mentioned, either here or in the matchday thread. That'll go up late tonight with links for streams, and team sheets will follow around 45 minutes prior to kickoff, since I refuse to wake up before 5:00am for any of you bastards.
Have a nice end to the week, and let's hope for a nice start to the weekend bright and early tomorrow.