How Thiago & Sadio Mane could be key to stopping “adventurous” Everton from ending hoodoo

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Everton and Liverpool are preparing to lock horns in the Premier League, but do Blues supporters believe their Merseyside derby drought will end at Goodison Park?

On Saturday lunchtime, the Reds will face their local rivals for the 237th time.

The two sides meet at Goodison with Everton sitting top of the league, three points clear of the champions and full of confidence.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men have come flying out of the traps and they may feel this is a perfect time to play Liverpool, following their shock 7-2 defeat at the hands of Aston Villa.

The hope is that the Reds don’t allow another off-day to take place, however, as they look to preserve a decade-long unbeaten run in the fixture.

Ahead of the game, we spoke to Matt Jones (@MattJFootball) from The Blue Room Podcast get hear all about Everton‘s resurgence and a potential Liverpool response this weekend.

 

How does it feel to be an Evertonian fan right now?

It’s a lot of fun! And it’s a bit unerring, to be honest.

Typically, four games into a season we’re already writing it off and longing for the next transfer window to fix the issues.

But there has been a refreshing feel to this group of lads and this manager. They are composed, talented, adventurous and love a battle, too. It is all very un-Everton.

 

What has been the catalyst behind the upturn in fortunes?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, January 21, 2020: Everton's manager Carlo Ancelotti during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Newcastle United FC at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

You would have to say Carlo Ancelotti. Crucially, the manager has made the lads who predate his arrival at the club better.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin has obviously been a force of nature as of late, but the likes of Seamus Coleman, Michael Keane, Lucas Digne and Gylfi Sigurdsson have also been much-improved this term.

In the same way Jurgen Klopp did when he arrived at Liverpool, the best managers can make more of the resources they have without signing a ton of players. Ancelotti seems to be doing that.

Nevertheless, the new lads have been key.

Ancelotti recognised the midfield needed gutting and the additions of Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure have impressively filled that huge void.

Meanwhile, James Rodriguez has been the gloss to all this. I don’t think Everton have had a footballer like him for a long time. He is a joy.

 

Who are the first three names on Everton’s team-sheet now?

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - Monday, July 20, 2020: Everton's Dominic Calvert-Lewin during the FA Premier League match between Sheffield United FC and Everton FC at Bramall Lane. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I could be sensible here, but I will just go for the front three of Rodriguez, Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin.

It is such a balanced triumvirate and all three seem to bring out the best in one another, with Rodriguez and Calvert-Lewin already so productive in the early weeks of the campaign.

While he may not have received the acclaim of the other two, Richarlison has been excellent as of late, with his work rate and intensity off the ball so important to the way in which this side attacks.

I reckon he will have a big game on Saturday.

 

Do you think they have the staying power for a top-four finish?

FLEETWOOD, ENGLAND - Wednesday, September 23, 2020: Everton's Alex Iwobi (L) celebrates scoring the third goal with team-mate Richarlison de Andrade during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match between Fleetwood Town FC and Everton FC at Highbury Stadium. Everton won 5-2. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Probably not, but it’s not something that worries me a great deal at the moment.

This team has a burgeoning identity, has some wonderful footballers in it and is making Evertonians happy at a time when times are hard in the city.

Given the tedium Blues have felt watching their side for such a long time, that is a big step forward.

Even if the worst happens on Saturday, they have 12 points on the board and a League Cup quarter-final to come in December.

It has been a great start to 2020/21 and Everton look on course for a strong season.

 

As for Liverpool, are you expecting them to retain their title?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, September 28, 2020: Liverpool players celebrate with goal-scorer Diogo Jota after he scores the third goal to make the score 3-1 during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by Propaganda)

I am, yes, and comfortably. It might not be as comfortable as last season, however, given the defensive issues that have reared their head in recent weeks.

Man City have big problems at the back, which I don’t think Ruben Dias will solve, and an apparent lack of leadership.

Elsewhere, Chelsea, Man United, Tottenham and Arsenal all seem to have numerous weaknesses that will prevent any consistency being built up.

Maybe it will be up to Everton!

In all seriousness, it feels like Liverpool are still about 10-15 points better than any team in the league over 38 games.

 

Looking ahead to Saturday’s game, who do you fear most for the Reds?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 20, 2020: Liverpool’s Thiago Alcantara, makes his debut as a substitute, during the FA Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. Liverpool won 2-0. (Pic by Propaganda)

I would have to say Sadio Mane, who has had some great days against us – and pretty much every other team in the Premier League.

Thiago is another, provided he starts.

The Goodison Park derby has been the stage for attritional midfield scraps, prompting a string of forgettable matches, but he has the class to rise above that maelstrom and put a stamp on the game from a creative perspective.

Everton will be hoping Rodriguez can do the same for them.

 

Where do you see the key battles taking place?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, June 21, 2019: Liverpool’s Sadio Mané (R) and Everton's captain Seamus Coleman during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 236th Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The one I have been thinking about most is Liverpool’s left-hand side vs. Everton‘s right.

It’s not clear if Coleman, who did a stellar job against Mane in the previous derby, will be fit, meaning Ben Godfrey might start at right-back. Jonjoe Kenny is also injured.

But coping with Mane and Andy Robertson will be a challenge for anyone, especially with Rodriguez not the most effective in his own defensive third.

Doucoure will have a big job with that in mind and you will likely see him shuffling across a lot to fill that space.

On the other flank, Richarlison will fancy his chances against Trent Alexander-Arnold when the game is stretched.

In the Spurs game earlier in the campaign, he destroyed Matt Doherty by exploiting that space in behind.

 

Finally, hit us with your prediction – will the derby hoodoo end this weekend?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, June 21, 2019: Everton's André Gomes gets away from Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 236th Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I think it might. I am staying positive because this version of Everton haven’t given me a reason to be negative as of yet.

I will say 7-2 to the Toffees…

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