Liverpool v Everton 20:00
With both clubs in fine form this season, and the corresponding fixture at Goodison Park ending in a scintillating 3-3 draw, Tuesday night’s Merseyside derby could be one of the most entertaining in years. Just one point separates the clubs in the league, so there are more than just bragging rights at stake.
Liverpool look set to return to Champions League football if they can hold on to fourth place, but will need to ensure they don’t drop too many points like they did against Aston Villa in their last league game. The reds were given a scare after going 2-0 down in that game before Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard pulled goals back to rescue a point.
For once it wasn’t Luis Suarez’s name on the score sheet against Aston Villa, and Everton need to beware as the Premier League’s top scorer has now not scored in two games.
Either way, the Toffee defence need to be on their guard as in Suarez and Sturridge Liverpool have two of the most frequently scoring players in the Premier League. Suarez averages a goal every 72 minutes, and Sturridge one every 99 ranking them first and third in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for players who have scored more than five goals.
Liverpool had to rely on the strength of their defence, rather than their free scoring forwards, to stay in the game against Villa. Martin Skrtel made 22 clearances in the game, the joint highest in the last round of Premier League fixtures. That takes his total for the season to 220, averaging ten a game, and the most of any player in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.
In front of the back four, Lucas Leiva is now one of only seven players in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index to have attempted over 10 tackles this season.
The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index also shows how vital Henderson has become to this Liverpool side, as it demonstrates that no outfield player has featured in as many minutes as Henderson’s 1959.
If Liverpool are to finish in the top four this season they will need talisman Steven Gerrard to keep fit for the remainder of the campaign. Gerrard’s performances this season have demonstrated the cogency of the term that ‘class is permanent’, as although the skipper’s legs are getting older, he hasn’t lost his ability to dominate games. So far this tern he has registered 7 assists, the second most in the squad, but, to highlight his excellent all-round ability, he has also completed an impressive 82% of his challenges.
Everton may also be ruing a missed opportunity after taking just a point from their last league game against West Brom. Kevin Mirallas had put the toffees ahead before West Brom equalized.
Mirallas was in competitive mood against West Brom, being one of three players in the last round of game to concede five fouls, and was rewarded with a yellow card.
Gareth Barry is enjoying a resurgence at Goodison Park. He has completed 658 passes in the opposition half, more than any other English player. Coincidentally, today he comes up against the Englishman with the second highest number of completed passes in the attacking half. Jordan Henderson has made 618 passes in the opposition half to go some way towards silencing the critics who have followed him since joining Liverpool.
The performances of Barry, Henderson, and also on the pitch in the Merseyside derby Steven Gerrard (590 passes completed in opposition half) and Ross Barkley (516) should cheer England fans. Nine of the top 20 players in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for passes completed are English. Compare that to the end of last season, when just four of the top 20 were, and possession football seems to be on the rise in the English game thanks to the managerial qualities of Martinez and Rodgers.
Barkley is also one of nine English players in the top 20 for dribbles completed this season, ranked third overall with 53. Again, this shows an increase in English players comfortable on the ball as last season just 6 of the top 20 at the end of the season were English.
The dual for England’s left-back spot this Summer continues to excite with commentators unsure who will be picked between Cole and Baines. A common criticism often leveled at Leighton Baines is his defensive ability, with many pundits citing this as a reason to pick Cole. Against West Brom, however, he showed how unfounded these claims are, as he had a 100% tackle success rate.
Tim Howard has become synonymous with Everton since his arrival from Old Trafford in 2007, quickly establishing himself as the club’s number one ‘keeper. He underlined his worth to the Everton side on Monday, as he made a total of 5 saves – this was the second most in the league.