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Wijnaldum: Enjoy the Rivalry

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Ahead of Wijnaldum’s first Merseyside Derby, he reflects on his experience in the Tyne-Wear Derby, and why he thinks Liverpool-Everton is even bigger.

Liverpool v Watford - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The Liverpool-Everton rivalry, AKA the Merseyside Derby, AKA the Friendly Derby, is one of the most special local rivalries not just in England, but globally. To the outsider coming in, one of the most shocking things about the two clubs is their proximity to each other, just across Stanley Park, less than a kilometer as the bird flies.

Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum had the same experience when he first saw the two stadiums when preparing to play his first game in front of the Anfield faithful this season.

"When I played my first game with Liverpool at Anfield, we were driving to the stadium and I was new here so I didn’t know a lot of the city," the Dutch international explained. "But when we drove up I looked outside the bus and saw a stadium and thought, ‘That’s not our stadium’, but then I realised it was Everton’s. And then I looked on the other side and could see Anfield. I never realised it was so close!

Of course, Wijnaldum is no stranger to intense local rivalries in English football. The former Newcastle man cut his teeth in the Tyne-Wear Derby last year. He thinks the best way to handle the pressure is to just enjoy the experience.

"Enjoy the rivalry, enjoy the fans from Everton booing you, that’s the best way. It will make you give your best and try even harder to win the game."

However, Wijnaldum gets the sense that this rivalry might be even more intense than its Northeast counterpart.

"When I’m in the city center and I see supporters, they always say they really want us to beat Everton – even when the game was so far ahead. You can see it that it’s a big game for them.

"When I joined Liverpool, [the derby] was not my first thought. But when you’re here you realize that Everton is also in this city, and it is a big game.

"I can imagine this is bigger [than Newcastle v Sunderland] because it’s the same city."

Is there a better way to subtly throw shade than the phrase, “you realize that Everton is also in the city”? Well played, Gini.

In his first season with Liverpool, Wijnaldum has become an important cog in Liverpool’s midfield, but he has yet to really hit top gear, only scoring one goal and adding two assists in 15 Premier League appearances so far. Adding to that tally would certainly help us all enjoy the Derby much more.