Never has a Merseyside derby been so important yet so little talked about. After an unprecedented week of boardroom drama at Liverpool finally finished on Friday, Everton will be keen to extend their misery on the pitch.
Both sides head into the fixture on six points and lurking at the foot of the table and with questions being raised over whether one of the Merseyside giants could end up in a relegation battle this season.
David Moyes’s hosts sit 17th in the table after finally notching their first win of the season at Birmingham last time out, in the process becoming the first team in more than a year to leave St Andrew’s with three points.
However, the Toffees are still without a win on home soil this season and have a dismal recent record against their bitter rivals at Goodison, losing six of the last eight Premier League fixtures between the sides.
Everton have struggled in front of goal this term, netting only six times in seven league games. If they are to record their first back-to-back wins since April, midfielder Tim Cahill could be the key. The Australian has scored four goals in Merseyside derbies, the same number as Steven Gerrard.
The positive vibe around Liverpool following the NESV takeover could quickly evaporate should they lose a match which has far more at stake than just local pride.
The Liverpool players have looked sorry for themselves so far this season and sit 18th in the Premier League, the first time they have been in the relegation zone in the top flight since October 1984.
The players can no longer blame the uncertainty over the club’s ownership for their worst start to a season in 56 years, a campaign that ended in relegation. Captain Steven Gerrard has been leading the calls for the men on the pitch to now drive the club forward. “We've all suffered in this, especially the supporters, and now it's time for us all to pull together and help move the club forward,” he said.
Manager Roy Hodgson is already asking new owners NESV for time to complete the ‘major job’ he has on his hands to turn Liverpool’s fortunes – but the jeers he received from the Kop during the 2-1 defeat to newly-promoted Blackpool last time out suggest he might not be afforded that luxury.
Hodgson will want his players to show spirit but will be wary that this hotly contested derby has seen 19 red cards in 36 Premier League meetings between the clubs – more than any other fixture in the division.
After the week Liverpool have had, predicting how the players will react in a Merseyside derby is the £300 million question.
David Moyes will make a late decision on defender Phil Jagielka ahead of Everton's clash against city rivals Liverpool. Jagielka was forced out of England's Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro with a hamstring injury and is a major doubt for the match at Goodison Park.
The Scot will certainly be without midfielder Marouane Fellaini, who played on for Belgium with a hamstring injury and now faces six weeks on the sidelines. "I thought he should have come off immediately and he didn't,” fumed Moyes. “It's probably made his injury worse. I'll write a letter of disappointment to the Belgian FA.”
Striker Louis Saha (calf) is almost certain to miss out while Steven Pienaar is sidelined with a groin problem. Jack Rodwell is still more than two months away from returning from a long-term ankle injury.
Possible starting XI: Howard; Neville, Heitinga, Distin, Baines; Coleman, Heitinga, Arteta, Osman; Cahill; Yakubu.
The big news for the visitors is that star striker Fernando Torres has been declared fit to play in the 214th Merseyside derby. Roy Hodgson says the Spain forward has recovered from the adductor injury sustained in the 2-1 defeat to Blackpool just before the international break.
Full-back Paul Konchesky is also available after recovering from a hamstring strain while Fabio Aurelio is on the verge of returning from the Achilles injury that has kept him sidelined since August.
Dirk Kuyt is out for at least three weeks after suffering an ankle injury playing for the Netherlands while centre-back Daniel Agger is doubtful with a back complaint.
Possible starting XI: Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Konchesky; Lucas, Poulsen; Cole, Gerrard, Jovanovic; Torres.