Calvert-Lewin vs. Kabak the key battle as Everton fear ‘underrated’ Mo Salah

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Ahead of a vital Merseyside derby at Anfield this weekend, we travel across Stanley Park and hear how confident Everton fans are going into the game.

Liverpool made a welcome return to winning ways in midweek, with 2-0 victory away to RB Leipzig giving their season a much-needed boost in momentum.

The Reds were much improved in their Champions League clash, but they must now back up that performance with another big one on Saturday evening.

Everton make the short trip to Anfield for a key battle, not just in terms of bragging rights, but also in the congested Premier League top-four battle.

With the match on the horizon, we spoke to The Blue Room podcast’s Matt Jones (@MattJFootball) to get his verdict on the season to date and where the key battles lie this weekend.

 

Everton are seventh in the Premier League – how happy are you with their season to date?

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)

I’d say ‘content’.

There have been some positive results and Carlo Ancelotti has been able to get a lot from some players who many deemed to be castoffs.

Recent form has dampened enthusiasm, however, and the losses to Fulham and Newcastle in particular have emphasised that the old Everton – the one which you want to play when you’re on a shocking run or when your centre-forward hasn’t scored for months – is still lurking in there.

It doesn’t emerge quite as much, but still does.

 

Is a genuine top-four challenge on the cards?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 17, 2020: Everton's goalkeeper Jordan Pickford during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 237th 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. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I don’t think so. The squad still isn’t good enough.

With Dominic Calvert-Lewin absent for the last couple of games, they’ve been blunt up top and that’s indicative of the issue with personnel.

We’re only one injury or one suspension away from having a lad who isn’t quite good enough, or isn’t quite consistent enough, come in.

 

Who have been Everton’s three best players so far?

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)

Calvert-Lewin has developed into one of the best all-round forwards in the Premier League and is comfortably our Player of the Year.

Behind him would probably be Abdoulaye Doucoure, who has been fantastic since signing in the summer, and Ben Godfrey, who was our lowest-profile signing before the season started.

It looks like he might be our best one, though.

I will give a special mention to Lucas Digne, too, who is invariably excellent when he’s on the pitch.

 

Have any individuals struggled?

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)

Everyone knows about Jordan Pickford and his chequered record in this fixture, so I won’t bore any readers there.

Richarlison has had a tough term, although he’s starting to find the net a little more frequently recently.

Of all the players Everton have, he seems to be the one who misses the energy of a crowd to get him going and he’s not really been able to channel his emotions in the best way.

The manager loves Gylfi Sigurdsson, too, although it would be fair to say that affection isn’t shared by a lot of supporters.

 

Switching our attention to Liverpool, what has gone wrong for them?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 22, 2020: Liverpool’s Diogo Jota (R) celebrates after scoring the second goal with team-mate Curtis Jones (L) during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leicester City 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 David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

A bit of everything I suppose, although the situation isn’t perhaps as bad as being reported.

Injuries have clearly taken a toll, but there’s also a sense of the team reaching the summit of the mountain last season, having worked so hard to get there.

That’s not to say they won’t bounce back, of course. With players like Curtis Jones and Diogo Jota, there’s potential to freshen the XI up next season and go again.

The manager is too good for that not to happen.

 

What is your favourite and worst derby memory?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 5, 2020: Liverpool's Curtis Jones scores the first goal during the FA Cup 3rd Round match between Liverpool FC and Everton FC, the 235th Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

My favourite is probably the 3-0 in 2006 when Pepe Reina had his meltdown. It was the only time Everton have properly rubbed it in against Liverpool that I can remember.

The worst? Honestly, take your pick.

As much as I’ve started to just shrug my shoulders at the last-minute losses and hammerings down the years, the loss to Liverpool reserves in the FA Cup last year was pitiful.

A proper disgrace – the kind of performance that makes you think “we’re never winning here again, are we?”

 

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

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - Tuesday, February 16, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the first goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 1st Leg game between RB Leipzig and Liverpool FC at the Puskás Aréna. (Pic by Propaganda)

Mohamed Salah.

He has been a major threat whenever I’ve seen Liverpool this season, and even when the team hasn’t been performing well, he’s maintained his potency.

I still don’t think he really gets the credit he deserves for the incredible productivity he maintains.

 

Where do you see the key battles taking place?

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 13, 2021: Liverpool's Ozan Kabak (L) and captain Jordan Henderson during the FA Premier League match between Leicester City FC and Liverpool FC at the King Power Stadium. (Pic by Propaganda)

From an Everton perspective, I’d say Calvert-Lewin up against whatever defence Liverpool fields.

If he’s fit, Dom can really unsettle any opponent, and while Ozan Kabak apparently had a decent game in midweek, the multidimensional threat Calvert-Lewin brings means he’ll be in for a much tougher evening.

Of course, this depends on Everton getting the ball into the striker in the right areas, which will be a big challenge in itself.

 

Finally, hit us with your prediction…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 17, 2020: Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino (R) gets away from Everton's André Gomes during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 237th 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. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s the two classic ‘Everton, that’ tropes aligning here: tripping up against a team on a losing run in the Premier League and wilting at Anfield.

With those in mind, I’m not optimistic at all. I will stretch to a 1-1 draw.

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