Let's not see red in the derby
APPARENTLY the Merseyside derby is the most keenly-fought in Britain. The most bookings and red cards by all accounts.
Factoring in that that includes the Old Firm clashes in Scotland, then it says a lot about the passion that football on Merseyside generates.
The last derby finished with only nine Everton players on the pitch. I hope therefore, that Steve Bennett is not the referee tomorrow as, if he is, we might well be down to a five-a-side game by half time.
There is a lot riding on the outcome of this particular derby and for Liverpool it could not have come at a worse time. We have just suffered a painful defeat at Old Trafford and fate has decided to served us up with another titanic battle.
Three meetings with Wenger's Arsenal in the space of a week. Those games with Arsenal will certainly define our season and possibly theirs as well.
Having the small matter of the cage-fight that is the Merseyside derby as preparation is not what anyone at Liverpool would have wanted I'm sure.
That said, Everton need to win this game more than we do. A draw will be sufficient for us to maintain our points and goal difference lead over them for fourth slot, and we've already beaten them once this season.
The onus therefore is on them. For all the moaning about the referee by the Everton camp after their Goodison defeat, they barely managed a shot on goal all day with the luckless Sami Hyppia obliging for them with an own goal. If a good part of Liverpool's season hangs on this game then it's also be true to say Everton's season does to an even greater extent. A defeat would probably end their quest for fourth place.
Nobody really looks forward to derby day anymore. The atmosphere has become poisonous - as bad as it is when we play Man United - and that's saying something. The result is the only thing that matters.
That could be because the difference between the two clubs these days is stark. For all the problems with our current American owners, we have potential suitors from DIC waiting in the wings and a new stadium waiting to be built. Both the Champions League trophy and the F.A. Cup have graced Liverpool's sideboard in recent seasons. We also have the distraction of another Champions League quarter-final to contest.
What of Everton? Achieving fourth place would, for them, denote a highly successful season. Conversely, achieving only fourth place for Liverpool could possibly get Rafa Benitez the sack. I hope this particular derby has at least some football played and isn't the one-hundred miles per hour physical battle that it usually is.