Time: 7:45 EST
Blueshite Sing-a-long: Royal Blue Mersey
You know, going to the neighbors for an unpleasant experience and all that.
I bet I'm not the only Liverpool supporter who hates these games. Sure, there's local pride and all that I guess, and the uniqueness of a derby where the teams are situated barely half a mile apart. And the history, I get all that. But there are many reasons that I'll wish these two hours are over in a hurry. A) the football is seldom pretty. While the mere passion and pace can keep any viewer locked in, with tackles flying in like mortars and fouls being committed every 3.7 seconds and players bickering with the ref, this clearly is more modern art than classic. In fact, it's generally one of those weird modern installation where some beautiful woman covers herself in blood and meat while Suzanne Vega blares loudly. There's beauty in it somewhere, you just have to look real hard with the right kind of eye.
Secondly, and maybe this was only in the past, but this game always seemed to mean so much more to the bluenoses than Liverpool. Whereas the Pool had dates with United, Chelsea, Arsenal, and various Champions League dates to look forward to, Everton's season basically boils down to beating the Reds and not getting relegated. I'd like to think David Moyes has raised ambitions around there with a couple high finishes, but it still doesn't totally feel that way. So the joy Evertonians get from a win, well, I can't match when we get one. And now that we don't necessarily have the bigger fish to fry and this match takes on a greater significance than it used to feels deflating. Feel free to tell me I'm wrong in the comments, just how I feel.
Anyway, on to the match tomorrow and all that. Everton come in to the match with seven points from five matches, one game less than most after their opening day fixture at Spurs was postponed due to some passionate discussions between residents and police there. They've got wins over Blackburn and Wigan, a draw with Villa, and losses to QPR and Man City. So pretty even on the ledger there. They've also advanced to the fourth round of the Carling Cup.
You wouldn't call Everton a star-laden side. In fact, the only guy with more than one goal on the season is now playing for Arsenal. 10 goals in seven total matches, so the Showtime Lakers this is not. Especially now, as Moyes is actually fielding a 4-6-0 lineup that we usually only joke about. Seriously, Tim Cahill has been playing as a lone striker. This would be funny if he hadn't spent close to a decade now scoring against us and doing his skull-crushingly-annoying shadow box with the corner flag. I thought Aussies didn't like to fight? Anyway, look for the Blues to field Hibbert-Jagielka-Distin-Baines across the back, with Rodwell-Neville-Osman-Feillani-Coleman behind Cahill. If Moyes wants to get spiky you may see new signing Royston Drenthe come in on one of the wings, but don't count on it.
As for the red side of this debate, generally Kenny hasn't liked to change a winning side. But against this packed a midfield he may have to. That would almost certainly see Carroll out, and Gerrard in ahead of Adam and Lucas. Downing will be on the left, and I have to believe that due to the combination of the derby and Jordan Henderson's drunken chicken dance against Wolves that Kuyt will come in. It's harsh on Carroll, who I thought had a pretty good game against Wolves, but that's what this calls for. Awfully big game for Charlie Adam, as this is the exact type of pressure cooker we wondered if he'd struggle with, because he won't be getting any time on the ball whatsoever. Hopefully he proves us wrong.
A discussion of tactics and ways to win is pretty useless on these occasions. It's pretty much about survival and taking the chances that sort of barf themselves up out of the chaos. And marking Cahill on set-pieces. Oh, and keeping Baines in check, which is why you'd have to suspect Kuyt gets the nod. Do that, and Everton just don't have that many weapons. But they so rarely do, and this still gets to be a slog. Tomorrow will be no different.