By Christopher Boulay
Three consecutive losses has Liverpool looking at its worst stretch of Premier League form since 2003. The situation now has become more complicated, as Everton come to Anfield with a chance to leapfrog the Reds with a win on Tuesday.
If the club is to make a recovery and avoid a continued slip down the table, it may have to come now. Everton is joined by Sunderland, Norwich, Swansea, Fulham and West Brom all within four points of the Reds. With the chances for fourth place all but dashed with the loss against the Mackems on Saturday coupled with Arsenal’s win over Newcastle on Monday, pride has become the main motivator.
Liverpool has experienced some of the worst form in the league since January 1, as it owns one of the three-worst point totals in the league since the start of the year. What also may be an issue is the fact the club play Stoke City in the FA Cup quarterfinals this weekend. There may be an increasing number of players looking toward that match, as winning it keeps the club on track to win the cup double.
Everton manager David Moyes may be hoping that is the case, as he has never defeated Liverpool in Anfield. However, with his club’s impressive form and Liverpool’s shocking lack of punch in attack, there may be hope yet for the Toffees. With a mostly healthy squad – one that is seemingly firing on all cylinders – the Blue side of the city has reason to be optimistic.
It is up to Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish to get the Reds on the right track in the Premier League and off to a strong finish. With 11 matches left, there is still hope to make a run in order to keep the clubs above Liverpool nervous.
There may not be much of a change in the back four other than Glen Johnson returning to the lineup from injury. However, if Johnson isn’t able to go, it will likely be Martin Kelly who will fit in on the wing.
Furthermore, the play of the midfield has been disappointing, to say the least. Dalglish may have a decision to make regarding continuing keeping Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam in the lineup. If he decides to leave them on the bench for such an important match, it could signal the return of Maxi Rodriguez and Jay Spearing to the lineup. Both have been harshly underused during the second half of the season, and could bring a change of pace that is much-needed in the center of the pitch.
Up front, the club will need a strong outing from Luis Suarez, as Everton’s defensive capabilities are well documented. With American Tim Howard in net, as well as a deep pool of defenders for Moyes to pick from, and should be as formidable of a test the attack has seen in recent months.
The Uruguayan striker – who has not been immune from media criticism, even in the aftermath of the incident with Patrice Evra – continued to stir the pot, as he told a French television station this weekend saying he was open to a move to Paris Saint Germain in the summer. Whether or not this proves to be a distraction is unknown. However, it may leave the supporters feeling unsettled, regardless of the result of the derby.
Regardless of the play so far in 2012, better play is not only needed, but expected by the fans. It will be telling if the starting 11 is able to not only deliver against Everton, but actually has it in them to make a run to save some face and set the club up well for next season’s return to Europe.
Liverpool v Everton
When: Tuesday, March 13th 1600 EST/ 2000 GMT
Where: Anfield, Liverpool
Premier League Table: Liverpool 7th (39 points), Everton 9th (37 points)
Last Premier League Match: Sunderland 1-0 Liverpool, Everton 1-0 Tottenham
Projected Everton Starting 11:
DEF: Neville, Heitinga, Jagielka, Baines
MF: Drenthe, Fellaini, Osman, Coleman
FW: Jelavic, Stracqualursi
Subs from: Mucha, Hibbert, Distin, Rodwell, Cahill, Gueye, Anichebe
Projected Liverpool Starting 11:
DEF: Johnson*, Skrtel, Coates, Enrique
MF: Henderson, Gerrard, Spearing, Maxi
FW: Suarez, Carroll
Subs from: Doni, Carragher, Flanagan, Kelly*, Wilson, Robinson, Downing, Adam, Kuyt, Bellamy