In the "big" fixtures last season, especially at Anfield, Liverpool were superb. Until the loss against Chelsea in their penultimate home match, Liverpool eased past the likes of Manchester United, Spurs, Arsenal, and Everton, and narrowly defeated Manchester City in what looked like the title decider. They mostly obliterated all comers regardless of status, sprinting out of the gates and refusing to relent until matches were comprehensively won.
Fast forward to this season and its a very different story; the season-opening win over Southampton has proved excellent given the Saints' form under Ronald Koeman, but at the time it seemed lackluster and lucky, and the loss against Aston Villa was even less inspiring and included none of the luck or skill. Two matches does not a season make, but it's clear that Liverpool's form at home and in general needs to improve quickly.
So, enter another "big" fixture tomorrow in the form of the Merseyside derby, and a chance jump-start what's been a discouraging campaign (even with four wins from seven in all competitions) to this point. Like Liverpool, Everton's start has been underwhelming, with only one win to this point in the league campaign. Last weekend against Crystal Palace they wasted a 1-0 lead at home, conceding three straight goals before clawing one back late from the penalty spot. That made for 11 goals conceded at Goodison in three matches, and midweek their defensive woes continued--albeit with a number of changes--in the 3-0 League Cup loss away to Swansea City. They've been better in two away fixtures in league this season, however, with a 2-2 draw at Leicester and a 2-0 win at West Brom.
Martinez will have late decisions on Seamus Coleman and Stephen Pienaar, with Ross Barkley out long term. In the loss against Crystal Palace last weekend, they went with Tim Howard in goal, John Stones, Sylvain Distin, Phil Jagielka, and Leighton Baines across the back, Gareth Barry and James McCarthy in central midfield, and Christian Atsu and Leon Osman in support of Samuel Eto'o and Romelu Lukaku up top. Steven Naismith and Kevin Mirallas both came on just after the hour. Midweek there were further chances for Eto'o and Atsu, while Aiden McGeady and Bryan Oveido got starts along with Darren Gibson and Muhamed Besic.
Manquillo Lovren Skrtel Moreno
Sterling Lallana Coutinho
Brendan Rodgers left the door open for Daniel Sturridge yesterday in his pre-match presser, but starting him here would be ill-advised. He should return to the squad along with Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho, though, while Joe Allen, Emre Can, Glen Johnson, and Jon Flanagan remain ruled out.
There are a number of decisions to make for Rodgers based on who featured the other night in the win over Middlesbrough, and while it would be nice to see Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana rested, Liverpool aren't good enough or deep enough to have them left out. They're the form players in a squad that's desperately lacking in that department, and even though both played the entirety of Tuesday's victory--and will be expected to feature on Wednesday in Switzerland--they're likely to start here.
We know Steven Gerrard will join them, and each of Henderson and Coutinho should be fit to start. The latter will need to recapture some form along with his return to fitness; during this fixture last year he was superb, and Rodgers will need him to produce in a midfield that's light on options. The manager acknowledged that Suso will likely be included in some capacity after a strong showing against Middlesbrough, but a starting spot ahead of any of the aforementioned names would be surprising. Barring another start for Sturridge or Fabio Borini, whose showing against West Ham was industrious but lacking in the final third, we should see Mario Balotelli alone up top with numbers in support.
At the back things look fairly settled despite the fact that they're anything but, with Rodgers preferring Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren in favor of either Mamadou Sakho or Kolo Toure. The switch to three at the back against West Ham was a temporary (and not terrifically effective) change, and all signs point to the Skrtel-Lovren pairing with Javier Manquillo and Alberto Moreno as fullbacks.
Kickoff is set for 12:45PM BST/7:45AM EST, with BT Sport 1 carrying coverage in the UK and NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra airing the match live worldwide for subscribers. 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.