Liverpool F.C. vs. Everton is a rivalry comparable to baseball’s Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, if the Yankees also played in Boston. Anyway, this is the second half of their yearly home-and-away derby, and it has gotten the showcase broadcast on the NBC Sports Network, albeit on a Tuesday.
Such a high pressure game at Liverpool’s home ground of Anfield will be a good test for those players that are ‘internationals’ (play on their national teams), so I thought I’d focus on what they will want to accomplish. Both teams have a few. First, Liverpool.
It will be hard for the cameras not to remain locked on Luis Suarez for most of the game. The focal point of the Liverpool offense, the Uruguayan has the potential to create a goal out of thin air, as well as a red card for himself or an opposing player. It will be an enormous achievement by Everton defensively if he is not on the score sheet. He is destined to be a focal point again at this year’s World Cup if he doesn’t go off the rails and bite someone again.
The other players on Liverpool that have the potential to play this summer in Brazil are all vying for positions on the England team. Steven Gerrard has been a mainstay of the national squad for the last three World Cups, but his position is starting to slip, and he is even getting regular criticism among the die hard fans of ‘The Kop’ (kind of the equivalent of the Oakland Coliseum’s ‘Black Hole,’, or Cleveland’s ‘Dog Pound’). Striker Daniel Sturridge had been on a remarkable scoring run prior to an injury, and he returned a little over a month ago to score against Everton at Goodison Park, their home ground. He’s now back and hoping to ride his scoring partnership with Suarez to Brazil. Raheem Sterling is a young and rash forward who is trying to squeeze into what might be a final squad place.
On Everton’s side we have the USA’s number one goalie, Tim Howard. He will definitely be relishing his chance to pit himself against the attacking prowess of Liverpool, a fitting rehearsal for the German, Portuguese and Ghanaian squads he will face in the brutal Group G in Brazil. Left back Leighton Baines is quite likely a starter for England – he will be totally focused for the derby as he has just signed off on a new contract for Everton, ending much speculation of a move in the press. Looming Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku is looking to get back on a roll. He had started the season on a tear, then slacked off. This may have prompted him to recently shear off his dreadlocks, but there was also a controversy when he expressed solidarity with French striker Nicholas Anelka, who may face a ban for making a ‘quenelle’ gesture popularized by a French-African comedian and considered in France to be anti-Semitic. The other Belgian forward Kevin Mirallas has displayed much of the good and bad potential of his Uruguayan counterpart on the Reds, and the two have already clashed in the first game. Young midfielder Ross Barkley, being talked up to head to Brazil with England, is currently injured with a broken toe, while England veteran mid-fielder Gareth Barry is hoping for just one more chance. Hope may have gone for Costa Rican left back Bryan Oviedo, who suffered a horrific broken leg over the weekend and likely will not recover in time to start for his national team, which he surely would have otherwise.
So with these personal dramas added to the already charged atmosphere, expect to see the England national coach Roy Hodgson along with many luminaries from past Liverpool (and a few Everton) teams, as well as more than a few celebrities. Maybe we’ll even get a Macca, he’s been seen at numerous NBA games recently and along with John Lennon was an old Everton fan.
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