Everton vs. Liverpool: Gana vs. Henderson the key battle, Reds can exploit Williams & Mori pairing

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Liverpool’s pre-Christmas run of games sees them travel the short distance to Goodison Park for the Merseyside derby, always an event to look forward to and one the Reds will be hopeful of winning. Here’s everything you need to know about the other half of the city.

Everton

Premier League form: L – D – L – D – L – W

League position: 8th

Last win: 2-1 vs Arsenal on Tuesday

At home: Won four, drawn four, yet to lose.

 

Approach

It’s Ronald Koeman as manager, and that means the same now as it has done previously: a pretty rigid structure, a 4-2-3-1 formation and a team which can be a threat on a good day and appalling on a bad one.

Their midweek game against Arsenal showed both sides of that; of late the Toffees have been struggling for fluidity in the final third, chopping and changing the support acts to striker Romelu Lukaku and not really finding consistency as a result.

Everton can be tough to break down when they get plenty behind the ball, but they’re not really a cohesive unit with a set way of playing under Koeman as yet.

 

Danger spots

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 13, 2016: Everton's Romelu Lukaku in action against Arsenal during the FA Premier League match at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Lukaku is the big threat of course, but set pieces have proven important for Everton in general in recent weeks and they do have pace in the wide areas, if not great consistency with end product.

A poor run of form previous to the match against the Gunners had plenty of fans disappointed and questioning the team’s direction, but the manner of the midweek victory—coming from behind, a late winner, a last-minute defensive scramble to preserve the lead—could change all that, especially in the run-up to the derby.

Everton don’t lack for aggression and power throughout their spine, and that could count for as much as technique and invention, particularly with Idrissa Gana Gueye’s ball-winning ability and quick surges forward.

 

LFC can exploit…

The centre-backs. Phil Jagielka is suspended so Koeman will likely pair Ashley Williams with Ramiro Funes Mori – who was sent off for an awful challenge on Origi at Anfield in the last meeting – and both are capable of wild misjudgements in tackles and stepping out of the back line.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, April 20, 2016: Everton's Ramiro Funes Mori is shown a red card and sent off by referee Robert Madley for a dangerous tackle on Liverpool's Divock Origi during the Premier League match at Anfield, the 226th Merseyside Derby. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Regardless of who starts in the attacking midfield trio, none are hugely competent with ball retention and helping move the game higher upfield, so the emphasis will be on quickly swarming those attackers to win back possession and keep Everton pinned back in their own half.

Finally, goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg can really struggle with low finishes.

 

Key men

Gana vs. Jordan Henderson is the battle to watch out for. Both are exceptional in winning back the ball for their team, both are aggressive and physical, have great stamina and will look to make the first pass to keep their respective teams looking forwards.

It’s imperative from a Liverpool perspective that Gana’s runs from deep, particularly into the right channel, are tracked and negated when Everton counter-attack.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 13, 2016: Everton's Idriss Gueye in action against Alexis Sánchez  of Arsenal during the FA Premier League match at Goodison Park. (Pic by Gavin Trafford/Propaganda)

Henderson will have to be on hand to constantly recycle the ball when Everton are camped deep in their own half, but might also have to be the one to find a defence-splitting pass if the game is tight.

 

Team news

Jagielka’s red card against Arsenal means he’s out, while Yannick Bolasie tore his ACL last week.

Possible XI: Maarten Stekelenburg, Seamus Coleman, Ashley Williams, Ramiro Funes Mori, Leighton Baines, Idrissa Gana Gueye, Gareth Barry, Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas, Enner Valencia, Romelu Lukaku.

To mark the end of the 30-year wait for a league title, the ‘Liverpool Mishmash’ poster is available to order exclusively on This Is Anfield — the history of the Reds in one image!

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