We live in dangerous times. It's year four of manager Brendan Rodgers' reign at the club, and yet he's throwing around talks of 'rebuilding jobs' as if it's his first week on the job. The team is without its captain for the next two months, during which they will face their hardest run of games -- a run which looks set to define their whole season. They're playing uninspiring, tepid football, have found it nearly impossible to keep a clean sheet, and are one Daniel Sturridge injury away from a genuine crisis.
But all of those are concerns for next week, because right now it's derby time, and everything else is so much hot air. The fact that there's already been 224 of these babies doesn't diminish their importance, and come Sunday all that will matter to fans is picking up a win over their Merseyside rivals. While much has been made of Liverpool's poor start to the season, as it stands, they're only one point behind Everton, and a win would see them leap frog their blue counterparts on the table. That fact is a bit misleading, since Everton's 12 points have been much more convincing than Liverpool's 11, but dodgy 1-0 victories off of incorrectly called goals still earn you three points, and so here we stand.
Everton are without Kevin Mirallas due to suspension, along with Leighton Baines, Tom Cleverley, Tony Hibbert and Steven Pienaar, all out injured. John Stones and Seamus Coleman are in doubt and face late fitness tests. Roberto Martinez will likely set up his team similarly to the way he did against West Brom last weekend, in a 4-2-3-1 formation led by Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku. The battle between Lukaku and Sturridge, who both scored braces last week to lead their sides to 3-2 victories, should be the most interesting battle of the game. Everton's front four of Lukaku, Deulofeu, Barkley, and Lennon has shone in these first games, and Liverpool's defense will need to remain disciplined and focused if they want to avoid conceding anymore goals.
So, you know, expect to see them concede some more goals.
Predicted for Liverpool:
Can, Škrtel, Sakho
Clyne, Lucas, Milner, Moreno
Expect to see the same team that we saw beat Aston Villa last weekend. Though Christian Benteke may be fit enough to play, he will likely remain on the bench in favor of continuing the positive partnership that has begun to form between Daniel Sturridge and Danny Ings (or Double Dan, as I am desperately trying to make happen). Plenty of first team players were rested during the week when Liverpool drew 1-1 with FC Sion, with only Can playing all 90 minutes, so the dreaded Europa hangover may not be as detrimental as it as been in the past.
The team is still without captain Jordan Henderson, as well as Dejan Lovren, Roberto Firmino, and Jon Flanagan, with Christian Benteke, as mentioned, facing a late fitness test for eligibility.
Everton will be going into this game with the home field advantage and tons of confidence. For Liverpool, a good showing in the league was followed by another stinker in Europe. However, most of those players will be on the bench on Sunday, and with any luck, will get another set of good performances out of James Milner, Danny Ings, Philippe Coutinho, and Daniel Sturridge. It's been years since Liverpool have lost a derby match, but this season seems to be about overturning those good records.
Kickoff is set for 1:30PM BST/8:30AM EST, with coverage from Sky Sports 1 in the UK and NBCSN in the US. We'll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it's released, our live matchday thread and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on all the action as it happens.