Tonight, Liverpool and Everton will renew hostilities for the 226th time. The 225th Merseyside Derby ended with a 1-1 draw, and the immediate termination of former Reds' boss Brendan Rodgers. Since taking over, Jürgen Klopp has faced all 18 other Premier League sides, 5 sides from the continent, and Exeter City (twice). But he has yet to face the side that plays just across the park. That will all change tonight.
Klopp will come into the Derby with a few new insights after seeing Everton supporters partake in the Hillsborough memorial service. In the official game program notes, the gaffer had the following to say:
"It is maybe appropriate, for my own understanding of the unique nature of this rivalry, that this game comes so soon after the Hillsborough memorial service, which we attended last week.
"To see so many Everton supporters in the Kop, as well as Everton scarves and Everton strips among the tributes, was very moving. And of course Everton were well represented by their manager, former players and current senior officials at the service.
"This shows how special this city is and that the football rivalry is a big part of its special culture."
The Merseyside Derby is a special rivalry, as Klopp is now just beginning to see. It is rare in sports, generally, and football, particularly, that two successful, important clubs form in such close proximity. Sports pundits might be fond of saying "The Blue Half of Merseyside" or "The Red Half of Merseyside," but things are not nearly so simple. It is a rivalry that runs through families, coworkers, and friends.
The Derby is one that both divides and unites the community. Because the fan bases are so close, when the Hillsborough tragedy struck, the whole community suffered.
Klopp has had to wait a long time to get his first crack at the Toffees, but maybe it's appropriate to save the best rivalry for last.