Everton vs Liverpool
Venue: Goodison Park
Kick off: 6:30pm
Steven Gerrard will likely play in his last ever Merseyside derby when Liverpool visit Everton in the Premier League this evening.
The Reds skipper made his 700th appearance for the club in the late 2-1 win over Bolton Wanderers in their FA Cup third-round replay in midweek, becoming just the third Liverpool player to reach that milestone after Ian Callaghan and Jamie Carragher.
Gerrard has been the hero for Liverpool in so many of those games, but this time it was the new breed of Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho who got the Reds out of jail with goals in the final six minutes.
Dates for the diary continue to be circled before Gerrard’s summer departure to Los Angeles Galaxy and a final clash with Everton, barring a possible Europa League tie later this season, is a pretty significant one.
Brendan Rodgers has this week claimed that Toffees fans will be glad to see the back of Gerrard, who has netted 10 goals in 32 games against them to become the highest Merseyside derby scorer in the Premier League era.
Rodgers has been delicate with the 34-year-old’s workload this season, but will surely not deny him one more crack at Liverpool’s great rivals, despite him having completed 90 minutes at Anfield on Wednesday.
One player who may not be risked from the start is Daniel Sturridge, who made a goalscoring return from a five-month injury layoff as a substitute in the 2-0 win over West Ham United last weekend, a result which extended Liverpool’s unbeaten run to seven games and took them seventh in the table.
The England striker continued his comeback with another cameo against former club Bolton, and Rodgers has suggested that he will again be involved from the bench at Goodison Park.
With Mario Balotelli firmly out of favour – he was not even included in the matchday squad against Wanderers – it will be Sterling leading the line again with support from Gerrard and the red-hot Coutinho, who signed a new long-term contract at the club this week.
Roberto Martinez has yet to taste victory in three Merseyside derbies as Everton manager, and was also on an eight-game winless run against all opposition before the 1-0 win at Crystal Palace this past Saturday.
First-choice goalkeeper Tim Howard, Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar are still out injured, while Christian Atsu has helped Ghana reach the semi-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations and remains unavailable.
Everton are currently 12 points behind their neighbours in the table – the biggest gap at this stage of the season since the 2008-09 campaign.