Liverpool's Blip & Everton's Revival Should Spark Fireworks in a Flatlining Merseyside Derby

It's fair to say, the Merseyside derby has lost its box office appeal over the past decade or so. And while it has become one of the less-intriguing derbies for the neutral, Everton supporters have found the prospect of it even less appealing.

The Toffees have endured a wretched ten years of heavy defeats, last-minute heartbreak or nervy draws, failing to beat their bitter rivals in that time. On top of that, they've had to watch the Reds enjoy the greatest spell of success in recent history, winning a Champions League and the elusive Premier League title in the past two years.

For the blue half of Merseyside, the only great pleasure they have been allowed to take from this fixture was earning a draw at Goodison Park in 2019, a result which effectively cost Liverpool the title. It's a sign of the times when you're forced to revel in the failure of your nemesis, rather than bask in your own glory.

No one will have suffered more than Everton fans over the summer of 2020. Liverpool's long-awaited coronation was hanging over the city, and with the trophy officially wrapped up in July, the Toffees had lost the one remaining stick with which they could poke their adversary.

It's no exaggeration to say, that at the end of a miserable season which had seen a shedload of investment, two managers, and a 12th place finish, the gap had never felt so gaping between the two clubs. And numerically, it made for tough reading, too. A chasm of 50 points had opened up - more than Everton even managed to amass over the course of the 38 games. Yikes.

Liverpool finally ended their long wait for a Premier League trophy | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Recent news of Liverpool's intention to harbour even more power in the English top flight with the 'Project Big Picture' revelation only adds to the abyss which is developing among the best and the rest.

What no one could have anticipated though, was just how dramatically Everton would turn around their miserable fortunes. With Carlo Ancelotti at the helm, anything is possible. The Italian's arrival at Goodison Park sparked plenty of curiosity around Europe, but that interest faded rapidly as he failed to whip his team of strugglers into shape. He inherited a squad so bereft of talent and desire in key areas, that even a multi-title and Champions League winning coach couldn't inspire a tune.

That's all changed now. The man famous for managing big egos and attracting football's elite has worked wonders once again, convincing the midfield trio of Abdoulaye Doucoure, Allan and James Rodriguez to join his revolution. Buying an entirely new centre of the park may feel like a bit of a cheat code, but you've got to possess the pulling power to do it in the first place.

The emergence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin as one of Europe's hottest strikers has also captured our imagination, and the now-England international's shocking transformation must fall at Ancelotti's feet. The talent whisperer.

This overhaul has catapulted Everton to the top of the Premier League after four games, scoring a joint-highest 12 goals, with the re-born Calvert-Lewin chipping contributing half of that total. Alongside his tremendous exploits, James is demonstrating just why he's rated as one of the best attacking midfielders in the business, while Doucoure and Allan provide the solid and mobile base they have lacked for some time.

And all this talent has cheered Richarlison up no end - not surprising really, for a player who has been held back and shackled by the deficiencies of his teammates since arriving from Watford in 2018.

So, the blue side of the city is on fire, and confidence is through the roof ahead of the Merseyside derby on October 17. That might have something to do with Liverpool's recent trip to the midlands. Jurgen Klopp's side became the first reigning Premier League champions to concede seven goals in one game, crumbling to a humiliating 7-2 defeat to Aston Villa prior to the international break.

Adrian shipped seven against Aston Villa | Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

The lack of defensive cohesion, the horror-show individual displays across the backline and the absence of key faces made for one nightmarish cocktail of embarrassment for the Reds, whose heads dropped worryingly when the game had clearly slipped from their grasp.

A freak result off the back of three straight wins? Maybe - but there might be more to it than just a minor blip. Liverpool have not looked themselves since clinching the title, and even prior to the coronavirus-induced break in play, Klopp's men had suffered a couple of uncharacteristic losses.

Whether it is a case of other teams sussing out ways of combatting this team, or simply that the glorious title success has caused a tiny, tiny drop off in application and hunger in recent months, their German coach may hold some slight concerns.

A reduction in effort of even one percent can make a formidable side beatable, and you'd require a serious appetite to defend a league title after ending a 30-year wait without one. Now facing their rivals during a purple patch without talisman Alisson Becker, knees might be knocking at Anfield.

James is fast becoming a hero on Merseyside | Jan Kruger/Getty Images

They may still be the best team in England, but one thing is for sure - the Toffees will be smelling blood.

Just for the statisticians and superstitious out there, the last time Everton beat Liverpool was in a 2-0 victory on 17 October 2010 - exactly ten years to the day that the two meet at Goodison Park this time round. Is this their chance to break the cycle of hurt and open up a six-point gap over the current champions?

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to find out.

Source : 90min