Everton vs Liverpool, Saturday 12:45
In a game that is always highly anticipated, Everton host Merseyside rivals Liverpool in the early kick off the in the Premier League this weekend.
Everton drew to manager-less Crystal Palace last time out, despite boasting an incredible 73% of possession in the match. Gareth Barry was integral to this, as he completed 63 passes in the opposition half – only Samir Nasri (78) completed more in the league.
One player who’s already on the plane to Brazil next year is left back Leighton Baines. The selection dilemma for Hodgson is who he starts out of Baines and veteran Ashley Cole, but what the Everton left back does seem to have in his favour is his outstanding offensive ability. Baines’ ability in attack is evident in the number of passes he completed in Crystal Palace’s half, he completed 301 according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index – the second most of any defender in the league.
The argument commonly used against Baines’ inclusion is that his defensive ability isn’t quite up to scratch. However, the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows how unfounded these claims are. The former man has been successful in 86% of his 36 challenges this campaign.
Once described as ‘The General’ by former England manager Fabio Capello, Phil Jagielka looks to finally have established himself at international level, where he is starting to replicate his domestic form. The Everton skipper has been imperious at the back this term, making 143 defensive contributions (based on clearances, tackles won, blocks and interceptions). This is the third most in the league.
Liverpool enter the Merseyside derby in scintillating form, fresh off the back of an impressive 4-0 victory against Fulham.
Philippe Coutinho stepped up his comeback from injury against Fulham, starting from the off, and he certainly wasn’t showing any ill effects when it came to the shooting department. The Brazilian took 8 shots against Fulham, level with teammate Luis Suarez at the top of the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index table. The combination of these two and Daniel Sturridge is an enticing prospect for all Liverpool fans.
It seems a long time ago that Jordan Henderson was close to leaving Liverpool, as he has become an integral part of the team in the last year. His tendency to work his socks off for the team, and to keep the ball has been a vital cog in the Liverpool machine this term – and this ability to maintain possession was on show against Fulham. The former Sunderland man completed 51 passes in the opposition half, the fifth most of any player in the league.
After a long period sidelined by injury, Lucas Leiva has managed to win back a place in the Brazilian squad. With the plethora of attacking options Brendan Rodgers has at his disposal, Lucas’ hard-tackling ability will be essential to balance the midfield, and this tackling ability was on show against Fulham on Saturday. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that Lucas won an impressive 9 challenges, with no other player in the league winning more.
Steven Gerrard may be approaching the twilight of his career, but there appears to be life in the old dog yet! The Liverpool and England skipper has completed more passes in the opposition half (407) than any other player in the squad.