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Everton Looks to Build Onto Hot Start in Derby Against Liverpool

The Merseyside Derby is always an enticing affair between the two Liverpool clubs, and next week’s Premier League match should be no different.  Although Everton haven’t won against Liverpool since 2010, they have had the more successful season so far this term and will have the home-field advantage playing at Goodison Park in this match.

Everton is currently in 4th place in the league after beginning the year with an enthralling 1-0 win against Manchester United.  They built off of that victory and have since defeated Southampton, Swansea, and Aston Villa.  Their only defeat has been away to West Bromwich who is one of the surprising darlings of the young EPL campaign.

Everton has built a solid start from some of their excellent players and solid defensive play.  American goalkeeper Tim Howard is a great presence between the posts while offensively the team has benefited from relatively new striker Nikica Jelavic and midfield dominator, Marouane Fellaini.  Steven Pienaar has also brought a real edge to the team, although he will unfortunately miss the derby due to a suspension from a red card he earned last weekend at QPR.

Everton has slumped recently with two draws in their last two Premier League matches, although one could argue the QPR draw was a success since the finished the game with only 10 men, and both matches have been away from home.

Understandably, the team has seen a rather easy start to the campaign with Manchester United their only true test, however, that is set to change starting with this Liverpool match.

Liverpool has been woefully average, and this poor run has continued into this year.  Other than the five goals by Luis Suarez, the Reds have not been anywhere near up to par.  They are currently 12th in the table and have only managed two wins in eight matches.  They head into this match on the brink of desperation, and would be especially embarrassed should they fall to their greatest rivals, who look to be overtaking them as far as the most successful football club in town.

As bright as Everton have looked, this match will be quite tough.  Derby atmospheres always make for an unpredictable game, but with the injured Fellaini struggling to gain fitness for this match and the suspended Pienaar, the team could find chances difficult to come by.  Perhaps Kevin Mirallas can earn some playing time in this match and make a difference.

Either way, the Everton Liverpool game is sure to be an exciting match as these two clubs, both hungry for a win tussle horns in a heated rivalry battle.  I foresee an Everton victory 3-2.

What Does Liverpool Need to Do?

Liverpool has been in a state of disarray for roughly three seasons with final standings of 7th, 6th, and 8th in their most recent English Premier League seasons.  This campaign currently finds them in 17th place with only two points from four matches.  The start under new manager Brendan Rodgers has been the worst start to a Premier League campaign in over 100 years for Liverpool.  It seems as if the Reds are a team of the past and that their star is fading fast.  What can they possibly do to correct this team?

Clearly, the team suffered following the departure of Xabi Alonso, who was an anchor in the heart of the midfield.  Quite astonishingly, the club hasn’t really made any serious moves to replace him.  Javier Mascherano, his supposed replacement left the following year.   Recently the club brought in Raul Meireles, who performed very well but then set sail for Chelsea after only one season.

And now, instead of investing in this position, Liverpool has spent their funds on seemingly every position but the one they need, with big purchases like striker Andy Carroll and a host of more attack minded English midfielders like Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing, and most recently Joe Allen.  These players are largely inexperienced and have failed to establish a solid midfield at Anfield.

What is most alarming has been the downfall of captain Steven Gerrard.  Gerrard is by far the most acclaimed Liverpool player and was one of the best during the mid 2000’s, leading Liverpool to a UEFA Champions League victory with stunning goals and relentless leadership.

But in recent seasons, Steven Gerrard has disappeared.  Since 2009, after his last season paired with Xabi Alonso, Stevie G has failed to score ten goals a season in the Premier League.  That season he amassed a personal best of 16, but he has yet to rediscover that sort of form.  Worse yet, he has been sidelined for much of the last two years through injuries and clearly Liverpool lacks the depth to replace him.

He seems to play desperately now.  In the most recent match, a 1-1 draw with Sunderland, I saw him repeatedly go for glory and miss on several long-range efforts, the kind that he used to score.  Also, I noticed that he would receive the ball at midfield and hopelessly blast it up to a forward but end up turning the ball over.  This occurred several times throughout the match and perhaps one could suggest that his best days are well behind him.  At age 32, Gerrard should be playing near his top and this drop in play is frightening.

In summary, I feel that Liverpool needs to buy a good defensive midfielder, with experience, who can come in and help re-establish the heart of Liverpool.  Perhaps that will re-kindle the fire in Steven Gerrard, but I worry that we may never see his former greatness again, and that Liverpool may want to part ways with their captain if they wish to once again see sunlight.

Liverpool Ruin Great Chance to Deny Champions

Liverpool played their first home match of the season at Anfield yesterday against the defending EPL champions, Manchester City.  Although they played an inspired match that featured two moments of pure class, they also wasted a glorious opportunity to make a statement this season and look to be of a similar of mold as last season, when silly mistakes cost them numerous points in the table.

Manchester City started the match brightly, as Carlos Tevez was a dangerous figure who made a few decent runs on the Liverpool defense.  But then City sort of fell asleep and the Reds took over the game creating the majority of first half chances.  The crowd got behind the team and you could feel that Liverpool was on the brink of a glorious upset.

Martin Skrtel headed in a wonderful goal off a corner kick and the Anfield faithful leapt with joy.  He made a powerful run inside to meet the ball and simply banged it into the net.  Manchester City looked hopelessly lost but managed to see the half out down 1-0.

Liverpool’s errors came to the light in the second half.  In the 62nd minute, Carlos Tevez played in a cross that really ought to have been cleared, but Martin Kelly couldn’t control the ball and it fell dangerously in front of goal to Yaya Toure who managed to equalize the score.

Yet Liverpool managed to take the lead again moments later from a brilliant Luis Suarez free kick.  The shot bent perfectly around the defenders’ wall and dropped into the bottom corner.  Goalkeeper Joe Hart didn’t have a chance at saving the shot, and again Liverpool benefited from a moment of offensive genius from a set play.

But Manchester City played the game smart and waited like snakes for their opportunity.  David Silva was substituted on for the final 15 minutes and helped inspire the Blues.  His incredible ball control was on fine display as he helped orchestrate attacks late in the game.

But his skill was not to be the determining factor in the match.  No, it was Liverpool’s shaky defense that threw away the win.  All game the defense had been playing dangerous passes back to goalkeeper Pepe Reina, but these had fortunately been just out of reach of the Man City forwards.

Skrtel played another silly pass back to goal in the 80th minute.  This time Tevez pounced upon the drifting ball and was able to circumvent Reina and score the second equalizer.

Tevez had said during an interview showed before the match that he didn’t care what types of goals he scored, as they all only count as one goal.  This was clearly evident on the day.  Liverpool scored two sensational goals compared to Manchester City’s two that were created from defensive errors.  Liverpool had fought hard and should really have claimed all three points, but there was a definite mark of resiliency for Man City who was able to muster up a draw in a match where they were clearly outplayed.  Liverpool will need to correct their defensive mistakes if they are to again become a force in the Premier League.

EPL Season Starts off Just as it Finished Last Year

Anyone hoping for great changes right off the bat in the EPL will have been disappointed to see the first round of matches continue in much of the same fashion that last season ended.

Arsenal got off to a lackluster result with a 0-0 home draw with Sunderland.  In typical fashion, the Gunners held the majority of possession and passed the ball around without creating more than a handful of chances.  Arsenal began last year terribly before improving to a 3rd place finish thanks to the exploits of Robin van Persie and Alex Song, but without those players their replacements couldn’t break the deadlock.

Liverpool fell flat on their faces with a 3-0 loss to West Bromwich.  The team looks resoundingly similar under new manager Brendan Rogers, and although they faced a few questionable decisions in the match, there really is no excuse for such a one sided score-line for what was once such a proud club.  It has been several long seasons of finishing outside the top 4 for Liverpool and this result suggests the trend is set to continue.

Manchester City had a more positive afternoon that featured a comeback victory 3-2 over Southampton, recalling memories of their stunning final day last year when they won the league at the death with a similar comeback of the same score over QPR.  Although they were able to stage the comeback more comfortably with ten minutes remaining in the match, their ability to find late game heroics will make them a force again in the Premier League.

Chelsea found success as new signing Eden Hazard earned an assist and drew a penalty in their 2-0 win against Wigan Athletic.  After their two early goals the team didn’t look very strong though, and striker Fernando Torres was largely ineffective at producing chances.  At least they were able to get a win though which is something they struggled mightily with during last season’s 6th place finish.

Manchester United will play against Everton tonight in a match that Red Devils fans would like to forget from last season.  During that April match, Manchester gave up two late goals in a 4-4 draw that saw them drop two points that would have won them the league.  Based on the other recurring themes from the last two days, I suspect that this match will be another hard fought draw, as Everton has the home advantage.

So it appears as if this season is starting off in a familiar manner, but with 37 games remaining for each team, surely there will be some twists and turns as the EPL season develops.