Premier League Preview: Everton vs. Liverpool

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•The Merseyside derby has produced 20 red cards in the Premier League, more than any other fixture in the division. However, there has not been a sending off in the last seven derbies in league and cup.

• No team has scored more Premier League goals in the first five minutes than Everton’s four this season.

• At this stage last season, Liverpool were eight points better off, with 46 points after 23 games. (BBC Sport)

At Goodison Park on Saturday, Everton welcomes Merseyside rival Liverpool to Goodison Park in a clash prepped for viewing on NBC, or online via Live Extra, at 12:30 PM ET.

[RELATED: Sturridge ready to start in Merseyside derby]

Everton, past mid-table in the Premier League at twelfth place, will likely need a Europa League crown to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

Manager Roberto Martinez has seen his squad fall short of their goals up to this point; around this time last year, the Toffees were surging at fifth in wonderful fashion.

Eight spots behind that position this season, Everton have braved unfortunate injuries to important players, and the squad endured an eight-game winless streak prior to defeating Crystal Palace roughly a week ago.

Everton’s scoring leader is no surprisingly Romelu Lukaku, with 7 league goals, five less than he had last season at this phase.

[RELATED: PL Standings | Highlights]

Over to Liverpool, the Anfield faithful can’t complain about their team’s form, unbeaten in last seven games, only drawing to both Arsenal and Leicester City, 2-2.

It has not been the most consistent year for the Reds in terms of injuries, too, with key striker Daniel Sturridge as the most notable long-term absence.

However, even if the goal was to contend for a PL title once again, manager Brendan Rogers must be ecstatic with his crew’s upswing in performance, and especially, the attacking workings of Raheem Sterling in their FA Cup victory over Bolton.

Liverpool have won just less than half of Merseyside derbies all-time (19 victories out of 45 games).

What they’re saying

Everton manager Roberto Martinez on Gerrard’s last derby (Daily Mail): There is going to be a lot of talk about Gerrard but the only thing that matters to us is to try to use this as a springboard for our season…We picked up a very important win last weekend. The derby comes at the perfect moment for us. It can kick-start our season after the good moment we are sharing.’If you want to grow as a team you need a strong rival and a strong rivalry.”

Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson on importance of recent FA Cup win (LiverpoolFC.com): ”It shows we never give up.We kept going right until the end and we’ve got great character in the team, and a lot of quality as well. I thought the front four were outstanding all night, getting on the ball and creating things.Philippe and Raheem came up with the goods in the end with two great finishes. Like I said, it gives us great confidence and a boost for the weekend.”

Match injuries/absences

Sturridge already made his comeback against West Ham Last week, and breaking the starting XI is a possibility for him. Reds midfielder Lazar Markovic, who sustained a back injury against Bolton, will be assessed prior to kickoff, and Lucas Leiva may be set to play if needed after sitting out vs. the Wanderers.

For Everton, Tim Howard, Steve Pienaar and Leon Osman are the notable men injured. Christian Atsu won’t perform as well because he’s making a run with home country Ghana in the Africa Cup of Nations. And midfielder James McCarthy is out, enduring a setback to his return when a hamstring problem surfaced in training.

Prediction

Everton and Liverpool battle this one out on the Toffees’ home pitch, even thought its clear that the Reds are enjoying the better form at the moment. Everton 1-1 Liverpool.