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 By Steven Kelly

Klopp and Liverpool looking at bigger picture despite derby day showdown

Liverpool face awkward away opponents before doing battle in the Champions League with Manchester City for the second weekend running.

There's plenty of mythology surrounding the Merseyside derby, as with all famous fixtures. One of the most annoying is that it matters more to Everton than Liverpool. It doesn't.

Yet this is one time when the Reds could be forgiven for feeling distracted. They were excellent against City in the first leg of their quarterfinal, a richly deserved 3-0 win.

No-one needs reminding the job is only half done and Liverpool need a similar performance in what is bound to be a hostile, tense environment at the Etihad next Tuesday.

With a number of players unfit or half fit, Jurgen Klopp has some serious juggling to do in the next few days.

After weeks of not even thinking about fitness or availability it's all going slightly pear-shaped for the German. Not that you'd guess it from results -- they've won eight of their last 11 matches -- but to take on local rivals and the wounded champions-elect in three days he really needed all hands on deck.

There's a small points cushion between Liverpool and fifth-placed Chelsea but they await any slip, have a run of easy games and actually face Liverpool at home in May. Anyone claiming a top four spot is clinched couldn't be more wrong.

Everton's own season has been poor, following much bluster in the summer after they blew the dust off their chequebook and went hog-wild.

As usual, they'll feel they can make everything better with one swing of the bat, aimed squarely at Liverpool's head.

There was something unseemly about the way they barely tried against City in the league last week, not that the borderline training session actually did the Mancunians any favours a few days afterwards.

Everton's decades-old problem is an inflexible fixation with their neighbours, which from an outsider's viewpoint tends to hinder some much needed rebuilding work right across the board.

It's a peculiar relationship, a far cry from the old days when Everton gave as good as they got against someone they could genuinely call rivals.

They haven't won a derby for well over seven years but will feel they've a tremendous chance now as the Reds become distracted by the possibility of their first Champions League semifinal in 10 years.

Saturday will be ferociously contested and Klopp must be mindful of who he can risk in such an atmosphere. The last thing he wants is more injuries to key stars before the second leg with City.

He'll still want to keep up Liverpool's positive momentum if possible. Excuses can be made if Liverpool were to lose but fans revel in this unbeaten record and would hate to relinquish it.

Squad depth and fitness was always a fear before the season began but Klopp had managed very well up to now. Even holding off on spending the Philippe Coutinho money didn't seem too damaging.

Sadio Mane's later winner settled the Merseyside derby last time out at Goodison.

Losing Mohamed Salah would obviously be a blow the way he's been playing, but a general reduction in numbers can also be harmful at the business end of the season.

Klopp may even want to spare Roberto Firmino any abuse from Evertonians after he was found not guilty of using racial language towards Mason Holgate in the January FA Cup tie.

That wouldn't leave an awful lot left over to try and win what is bound to be a hugely demanding game.

City also face their own derby clash with United, and maybe too much is made of what fans hypothetically want. Watching the neighbours celebrate another title win in their presence would be painful for the Old Trafford faithful.

Giving them such a torrid time of it physically that City wouldn't have much left to knock Liverpool out of Europe might horrify some of them even more.

It all feels academic anyway since Real Madrid and Barcelona look too strong for either team at the moment but once anyone reaches the last four, anything is possible. Liverpool's last triumph in 2005 was wonderful proof of that.

Football simply can't be predicted, with two major derbies days before two of the clubs clash in the Champions League too.

Fans may complain of such high-profile fixture pile-ups but they'd be crying even more if their club had nothing to do but merely grind out the remaining month's games.

Liverpool's record at Goodison in this decade is not as good as the 2000s, when they won there seven times.

Draws have become the norm. If that continues it might actually be a useful point for the Reds right now. Given what they'll be facing on Tuesday, this feels like a fixture where for once Liverpool have to accept that damage limitation is enough.

Sunday's injury list could be far more important than Saturday's result.

Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.


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