MERSEYSIDE – The 219th Merseyside derby shapes as one of the more important ones as fourth-placed Everton host improving rivals Liverpool on Sunday while Chelsea welcome Manchester United to Stamford Bridge.
Everton, who have lost just one of their opening eight fixtures, are three points behind Manchester United and Manchester City in the English Premier League.
“Normally we are desperate to beat them just because it’s Liverpool,” defender Phil Jagielka told the Everton website.
“But this time we would love to beat them but we have to think about keeping ourselves up towards the top of the league.”
Liverpool, on the other hand, occupy 12th with nine points, having lost to United, Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion in an underwhelming start under new manager Brendan Rodgers.
But the Reds returned to form with a 1-0 victory via a Stewart Downing second half goal against Reading at the weekend followed by a win over Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala in the Europa League on Thursday.
“It’s three clean sheets in a row which is important for us and we’re now adding that bit of steel and concentration to some of the elements that we’re working on,” Rodgers said.
“The squad is not overly big but the condition of the players is very good so I have no concerns about that.
“Their work rate in training and in the games has been very good, so we’ll recover well. It was a very good performance and now we are all really looking forward to Sunday.”
While Everton remain unbeaten in the Premier League at home since March, Liverpool head to Goodison Park full of confidence having won five of their past seven matches at the stadium.
League leaders Chelsea host Manchester United tomorrow in a clash that could have a major bearing on the outcome of the title race.
Chelsea have won seven of their opening eight matches to establish themselves as the team to beat in the English Premier League, despite their shaky form in the Champions League.
The European champions went down 2-1 to Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday, while United recorded their third victory from three group games after beating Braga 3-2.
But Chelsea remained buoyed by their best start to a Premier League campaign, with 22 points and impressive wins over Tottenham, Arsenal and Newcastle United.
United, second on 18 points, remain hot on Chelsea’s heels, having scored 21 goals with the likes of Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck proving a formidable force up front.
Adding to that group is Javier Hernandez, who netted a brace against Braga and has created a selection headache for manager Sir Alex Ferguson. “The boy is improving all the time,” Ferguson told reporters.
“He is fantastic in training and he’s always practising. His goal ratio for us is fantastic. For his second goal he bends around the back of the defender. He’s given me a problem, but that’s a good thing.”
Chelsea, who have benefitted greatly from the form of attacking midfielders Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata, could be without experienced duo John Terry and Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge.-Goal.com