In roughly 24-hours Liverpool and Everton will renew one of the greatest local derbies in all of sports. In the past several years, the games have ranged from boring, scoreless draws to not-at-all boring draws to dominant Liverpool victories. Everton look to end their Merseyside winless streak on Sunday, currently at 10 matches, dating back to October 17, 2010. Given the current form of the two clubs, a win for Everton would not be all that unsurprising.
The Liverpool Offside: Last year didn't turn out as expected for Martinez. Were fans happy to see him return this season, and what as led to the improved results so far this season?
Royal Blue Mersey: If you had asked me that question around March time then my answer would have been very different. Three-quarters of Everton's season last year was dull and uninspiring. Our progress in the Europa League barely masked our woeful league form and after our eventual exit at the hands of Dynamo Kiev a relegation battle was a very real prospect. Martinez was feeling the heat, certainly from a vocal minority on social media (never a medium for reasoned argument I know). Thankfully a late surge pulled us away from danger and persuaded most that Martinez deserved another chance to put things right. His first year in charge was so memorable he certainly had enough credit in the bank.
It's difficult to pin down exactly why things have been so much better this time around. The lack of European football and the absence of a major international tournament over the summer meant key players are much fitter and fresher. The pre-season schedule was also much more organised - I don't think the players were fully match fit at the start of last season and that was reflected in some dodgy early results. Credit also has to go to Martinez for learning from the mistakes made last season, when all too often Everton's play was slow and directionless. I'm hopeful last year was just a case of a 'difficult second season' or 'sophomore slump', call it what you will.
TLO: The last several years have seen quite a few boring, uninspiring Merseyside Derbies. Do you expect this rendition to be any different and why?
RBM: There is so much pressure and tension during these games it is very easy for both sides to cancel each other out, the fear of losing means there is always a chance of a dull stalemate.
However, I'm confident this latest encounter will be different because Everton will look to take the initiative from the off rather than employ a safety first approach. They sense Liverpool are vulnerable at the moment whereas in previous years they have been riding high in the table, resulting in a more cautious approach.
Brendan Rodgers meanwhile will also be aware of what a derby win will do to boost his flagging popularity - a draw will to little to quell the murmurings of discontent from the supporters.
An early goal will go a long way to deciding how exciting the game will be too! (see the 3-3 draw in November 2013)
TLO: In this YouTube clip , Lucas Leiva tells an Everton fan that he's not allowed in Liverpool's shop with an Everton bag. What would have your reaction been?
RBM: Ha, ha, very good! I'd like to think I would have taken a stand, shouting to everyone within earshot that I didn't want to be in such a crap shop anyway before storming out. In reality though I probably would have been typically British and did what I was told before muttering angrily under my breath once I was outside.
TLO: On a scale from "Dominated" to "Sent home crying with recurring nightmares," how miserable will Lukaku make Martin Skrtel on Sunday? Related: Is Lukaku underrated, properly rated, or overrated?
RBM: It depends which Romelu Lukaku turns up. He is still only 22 so inconstancies in his game are to be expected. But given he looks closer to 32 than 22 and has a £28m price-tag around his neck he isn't afforded the patience he sometimes deserves.
On his day though there are very few defenders that can handle him - even someone as scary looking as Martin Skrtel.
It isn't just his raw strength that makes him so dangerous unlike a striker such as Duncan Ferguson. He is probably more effective with the ball at his feet running towards goal, but he hasn't always been given sufficient service to play to his strengths. Which brings me neatly onto your next question.
TLO: Hey! I was supposed to say that last bit, otherwise people think we're just exchanging e-mails, and not actually sitting down for chit-chat and tea and crumpets. Anyway, how is the second coming Gerry D going, can we expect a super sub routine from him?
RBM: I'm hopeful Deulofeu will start. He began the season as a bit of a supersub - particularly against Barnsley in the League Cup when set up three goals. But he has started the last two games, scoring the winner against Reading before putting in two wonderful crosses to set up Lukaku against West Brom on Monday. I'm hopeful that Deulofeu-Lukaku axis will prove decisive on Sunday, so much so I've put them both in my fantasy team*.
* No guarantee of success, my fantasy team is rubbish.
TLO: Everton's club motto is Nil Satis Nisi Optimum or "Nothing but the best is good enough." Has the club ever considered a less-ironic motto? According to the folks at Royal Blue Mersey, what should it be? And sorry, you can't have Everything's The Worst, that's TLO's motto.
RBM: Probably: "come on Everton, these are s***e" (excuse the language)
It's shouted at every match, regardless of the standard of opposition. No wonder some fans are never completely satisfied!
TLO: We're very concerned about hair at TLO. If we were to seek hairstyling tips from anyone in Blue, who would it be?
RBM: If you want to be too cool for school - or be in an indie band - then look no further than Leighton Baines, a man took his guitar to the World Cup in Brazil! Just google 'Leighton Baines haircut' to see for yourself.
TLO: We'll let LTB be the judge of the hairstylings of one Leighton Baines. Anyway, thanks for the chat Tom. Good luck tomorrow, but you know, not really. And in the meantime, anybody looking to read our answers to Royal Blue Mersey's questions can head over to the blue half of SB Nation.