When I think about tomorrow night and its implications, I don't even really want to use words. Uhhhhhh and gnnnhhhh and fits of disorganized giggling and crying should suffice. Separated by just one point in the table, both in the midst of their strongest seasons in recent memory, and participants in one of the goofiest derbies in years in the reverse fixture, Liverpool and Everton are set for a tremendously important derby tomorrow night at Anfield.
Liverpool won convincingly at home two seasons ago on the strength of a Steven Gerrard hat-trick, but it's been fairly level over the course of the past few years, with draws or one-goal victories for Liverpool most of the last decade. Form goes out the window and all that, of course, but there's little comfort in history despite the improved home form under Brendan Rodgers.
Everton don't arrive on their best form but have still only lost once in ten matches; Roberto Martinez has overseen a very good season to this point in his inaugural campaign as manager, but a string of high-profile injuries--including the horrific one to Bryan Oviedo in the 4-0 win over Stevenage this past weekend--have depleted a squad that had plenty of depth in quality at the start of the season, temporary or not.
Ross Barkley will be their biggest miss tomorrow along with the promising Oviedo, with Sylvain Distin, Seamus Coleman, Steven Pienaar, Gerard Deulofeu, Antolinn Alcaraz, Darren Gibson, Arouna Kone, and new loan signing Lacina Traore all either questionable or out as well. Despite that, the starting eleven will likely be a familiar one, with Tim Howard in goal, John Stones, Phil Jagielka (who might not be fit either), Johnny Heitinga , and Leighton Baines across the back, James McCarthy, Gareth Barry, and Leon Osman through the midfield, and Romelu Lukaku leading an attack supported by Kevin Mirallas and one of Aiden McGeady or Steven Naismith.
Flanagan Skrtel Sakho Cissokho
We'll have to wait to see who exactly makes the squad, but Mamadou Sakho is still a doubt and Joe Allen is questionable. Jon Flanagan made his return at the weekend. It'll come too early for Lucas, Jose Enrique, Daniel Agger, and Glen Johnson, however, which should round out the injuries worries aside from the possibly on-loan (and possibly alive) Sebastian Coates.
Simon Mignolet will surely come back into the squad in place of Brad Jones, and there's likely at least one change coming in the back line as well. I think Flanagan comes in for Martin Kelly at right-back given the latter's struggles to get back up to speed, and optimistically I'll guess that Mamadou Sakho comes back in as well. Brendan Rodgers gave the go-ahead for Martin Skrtel to play after his head injury on Saturday, so Sakho's return would likely mean that Kolo Toure drops out. Aly Cissokho has a good chance to make another start on the left, with possible barriers being the inclusion of both Flanagan and Kelly, three at the back, or Jose Enrique putting down the XBOX controller so he can play again.
So the midfield, then. There's just going to be so much blood. Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson will surely start again, and with few other options available, it's probable that they'll be at it alone. Spare a thought for Allen, though, who did a solid job in the reverse fixture despite the impact his miss had on the broader perception of his performance.
That leaves Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge to carry the load, aided by a rested Raheem Sterling and a marginally improved Philippe Coutinho. Alberto, Victor Moses, and Iago Aspas provide options off the bench, and I don't really see a scenario in which any of those names other than Moses gets a starting chance.
Kickoff is set for 8:00PM GMT/3:00PM EST, with BT Sport airing the match live in the UK and NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra carrying coverage in the US. Our coverage will start with the overnight open thread tonight and carry into the matchday post early tomorrow, which will have team sheets an hour before kickoff. Hope you'll be around to join us--if you haven't already, sign up for an SBNation profile and stick around.
**In his pre-match presser this morning, Brendan Rodgers ruled out Mamadou Sakho for 2-3 more weeks, so now he might not make it. Depending on your definition of "weeks."**