Everton 0-0 Liverpool
- Goals: None
- Assists: None
- Bonus: Alisson (£6.2m) x3, Jordan Pickford (£5.2m) x2, Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.8m) x1
Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but it did nothing for a decidedly lacklustre Merseyside derby.
The lack of a baying Scouse crowd robbed the fixture of all its historic intensity, while the pre-match news that both Mohamed Salah (£12.7m) and Andy Robertson (£7.0m) would be missing from Liverpool’s starting line-up did nothing to improve the mood of many a Fantasy manager.
The lengthy lay-off and unprecedented circumstances brought about by the pandemic were never likely to help matters, but the game was still a strangely sterile affair, with the best action of the encounter reserved for the final few minutes.
Both teams managed just three attempts on target each which, seeing as Liverpool enjoyed 70% possession, was either testament to the visitors’ toothlessness or Everton’s resilience, depending on your point of view.
But the truth of it was that only Alisson (£6.2m), in the Liverpool goal, was ever truly stretched.
He produced two fine saves from Richarlison (£8.3m) and Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£6.5m) late on, with the rebound from the latter’s effort falling to Tom Davies (£5.3m), whose shot was deflected by Joe Gomez (£5.3m) onto the post and away to safety.
That happened as we entered the final ten minutes. The previous 80 were largely forgettable.
Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp opted to bench Salah, and leave Robertson out of the squad altogether, for reasons of fitness.
In fact, he shuffled much of his pack, both before and during the derby, mostly for rotational purposes.
The Liverpool boss said:
We play in three days again. Today if I play 11 players the 95 minutes and they all have to go like they had to go today, then I have a real problem on Wednesday, that’s how it is.
You cannot underestimate it after four weeks of pre-season and nine weeks break before. We play two games in three days, so that’s why we have to think a little a bit before we have problems.
Problems did arise, however, with James Milner (£5.3m) and Joel Matip (£5.2m) both coming off with injury issues.
Klopp said of the pair:
Millie felt a hamstring a little bit, but we had this in the past. Millie is not often injured and hopefully, it is not serious. He is smart enough to show up in the moment when he feels it, so hopefully, it was the right moment. Maybe not Wednesday, but after that, I would hope for.
Joel was unlucky and we had to make a quick decision. It was a situation with Richarlison and he bent or stretched or his big toe. It is really painful, but hopefully, it settles, the pain settles and then we will see. I hope nothing serious has happened, but I don’t know yet.
The German’s decision to use Takumi Minamino (£6.0m) in the Salah slot proved interesting.
The Japanese international looked bright and breezy, but his similarity to the playing style of Roberto Firmino (£9.5m) helped neither of them to flourish – a state of affairs that is unlikely to change across the rest of the season.
Klopp ended up hooking Minamino for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (£6.2m) at half-time, a decision which seemed sufficiently harsh that he felt the need to explain it post-match:
The change at half-time was a pure idea for me and nothing to do with Taki’s performance. He found the game in the first half absolutely and then we thought, ‘Come on, why wait until the player gets tired when you get the opportunity?’. That didn’t work out 100 per cent, but Ox was lively, very lively.
‘Lively’ was not a word to describe much of Liverpool’s performance, with Firmino wasting his side’s best chance of the match when he opted to shoot, wide as it turned out, from the edge of the area instead of playing the ball on to a more advanced teammate.
That came from a rare break against an Everton team that sat very deep and invited their guests to play in front of them.
Other than that, home keeper Jordan Pickford (£5.2m) was only troubled by a late free-kick from Fabinho (£5.4m) which he was required to tip over the bar.
As for the hosts, Richarlison was a consistent threat throughout, firing across goal with one effort very early on and easily eclipsing his fellow striker Calvert-Lewin for attempts (five versus two) – not good news as the English forward is, with 12.8% ownership, Everton’s most popular player in Fantasy Premier League (FPL).
Calvert-Lewin did come close to breaking the deadlock with a header narrowly wide during the Toffees’ late surge, but even coach Carlo Ancelotti agreed that a draw was probably the right result:
Honestly, we were really close to winning but it was a difficult game. We performed really well, we were focused and sacrificed. At the end we had opportunities to score and were a bit unlucky. But Liverpool played a good game and had more possession but defensively we were really good.
Salah and Robertson now looked poised for Gameweek 31+ minutes when the Reds host Crystal Palace on Wednesday, with Klopp saying:
Some players couldn’t train in the last week – they trained, but not with the team – like Mo and Robbo, but yesterday they were in training and both looked really good. That’s why Mo is in the squad, Robbo not yet but on Wednesday [he will be] again.
For Robbo, it was better to have a proper session today and then be in for Wednesday, and for Mo, it is the right thing to do it like this.
Minamino is the obvious makeweight for the Egyptian unless Sadio Mane (£12.5m) is rested after enduring a fruitless 90 minutes being nullified by the excellent Seamus Coleman (£5.3m).
After that, it’s the sort-of-title-showdown with Manchester City, but Liverpool’s league crown is an inevitability and the only real Fantasy issue is how much rotation Klopp will indulge in once that is a reality.
For now, the answer would seem to be ‘a lot’, which will reduce the appeal of their assets.
Everton, meanwhile, have a generally attractive run to the end of the season, which should mean that current disinterest in their players – none appeared in the Gameweek’s top 30 for transfers-in – proves to be a temporary blip.
Defensively, this was their first clean sheet since Gameweek 22, so the jury remains out on the backline, but Richarlison, for his promise, and Calvert-Lewin, for his price, are surely worth a look with the likes of Norwich, Villa and Bournemouth to come over the next few weeks.
Everton XI (4-4-2): Pickford; Coleman, Holgate, Keane, Digne; Gordon (Sigurdsson 60′), Andre Gomes, Davies, Iwobi (Bernard 88′); Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin (Kean 90′).
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, van Dijk, Matip (Lovren 73′), Milner (Gomez 43′); Henderson, Fabinho, Keita (Wijnaldum 65′); Minamino (Oxlade-Chamberlain 45′), Firmino (Origi 65′), Mane.
Double Gameweek 30+ FPL Lessons Learned
- Aston Villa 0-0 Sheffield United
- Manchester City 3-0 Arsenal
- Norwich City 0-3 Southampton
- Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Manchester United
- Watford 1-1 Leicester City
- Brighton and Hove Albion 2-1 Arsenal
- West Ham United 0-2 Wolves
- Bournemouth 0-2 Crystal Palace
- Newcastle United 3-0 Sheffield United
- Aston Villa 1-2 Chelsea
- Everton 0-0 Liverpool
- Manchester City 5-0 Burnley
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