For a Merseyside derby, this one rather snuck up on us. After having to be re-scheduled due to the League Cup, Everton visit Anfield on Wednesday as Jürgen Klopp's Reds look to extend their winning form. This game is a highlight of any season, and as cliche as it sounds, when these two teams face off against one another there's always fireworks. Though it's been nearly a fully season without him, Steven Gerrard's absence will be felt once again when the team, for the first time, steps out onto the pitch at Anfield without him to face their old rivals.
In his place is a Liverpool side who have had a spectacular few weeks. Many key players will have also gotten six days off, thanks to the changes Klopp made to his line up against Bournemouth at the weekend. The entire defense, Simon Mignolet included, should return rested and ready to play. In addition, Philippe Coutinho will surely return to the starting XI. Divock Origi, on the other hand, is not a sure bet to start after Daniel Sturridge's vintage performance on Sunday. While the case could be made for both of them getting the start together, Klopp has yet to set up with two strikers at the start, preferring instead to leave one on the bench to bring on as an impact sub.
The bad news is that Emre Can and Jordan Henderson, two important cogs in the midfield machine, are both out for the rest of the season. The good news is that Joe Allen has hit quite a run of form lately, and assuming that Klopp believes he's fit enough to play a third game in a week after going the full ninety on Sunday, he should be in the mix to help martial the midfield.
The last time Liverpool faced Everton was way back in October, in a game that ended in a 1-1 draw—and also ended Brendan Rodgers's career at Liverpool. This will be Klopp's first Merseyside derby, then, and he will no doubt understand the importance of the occasion.
Four out of the last five match ups between these two teams have ended in draws—the only exception being the 4-0 drubbing that Liverpool dealt Everton back in 2014. Daniel Sturridge has netted three goals in his four appearances in the derby, all coming in 2013-2014, including a brace in the 4-0 victory and a late strike to salvage a point in an earlier 3-3 draw.
A win on Wednesday would propel Liverpool to sixth place, only two points behind Manchester United and six behind Manchester City and Arsenal, who are in third and fourth places, respectively. With six games left, top four is a nearly impossible task, but the team must battle on regardless while keeping Villarreal and the Europa League the priority.
Roberto Martinez's Everton, on the other hand, are having a difficult season. They sit eleventh in the league after drawing their last three games. Martinez rested Gareth Barry and had Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley start on the bench in their last match, and all three will likely return to the line up on Wednesday. Though the local honors of the derby are massive, Martinez does have an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United on the weekend to think about when setting up for this game. Phil Jagielka and Seamus Coleman are confirmed out injured for the Toffees, while Aaron Lennon, Leighton Baines, and Tom Cleverley are doubtful.
Clyne, Lovren, Sakho, Moreno
Lallana, Firmino, Coutinho
Though Sturridge may well have played himself into a spot in the starting XI on Sunday, it's more likely that Klopp has a rotational plan for these two. Since it was Sturridge who came out against Bournemouth, we should see Origi starting in this game and Sturridge coming on in the second half. Lucas could get the shout in midfield, likely in place of one of the more attacking players and with Milner pushed forward. The derby can always use a player with his enthusiasm and appreciation for the importance of the occasion. There's also some question as to whether Sheyi Ojo or Kevin Stewart might just get a look in. Both seem less likely, but they should at least make the bench.
Along with Henderson and Can, Christian Benteke and Jordan Rossiter remain out of commission. Danny Ings and Joe Gomez are both still out for the season.
Kickoff is set for 8:00PM BST/3:00PM EST Wednesday. Television coverage will be on Sky Sports 1 in the UK and NBC Sports Network for the US. Elsewhere, Foxtel Play in Australia, TSN1 in Canada, Star Sports HD 2 Asia in India, SuperSport 3 Africa in Kenya, and Astro Supersport in Malaysia are carrying the match. You can find other listings at LiveSoccerTV. For Online radio, fans worldwide can check out LFCTV GO.
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.