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The battle of Mersey pride

Mark Lomas
Luis Suarez's diving celebration hit the headlines in the last derby but he is suspended this time around

One flick of his right boot was all that was needed for Kevin "Super Kev" Campbell to write himself into Everton lore, the striker immortalised in terrace song thanks to a match-winning goal in front of the Anfield Kop.

Fourteen years on, Campbell's neat finish past Sander Westerveld has become something of an albatross round the Toffees' neck. He remains the last man to secure all three points for Everton at the home of near neighbours Liverpool, with six losses and six draws in the Premier League since that 1-0 victory in 1999.

Should David Moyes take the decision to leave Goodison Park this summer, he will rightly be recognised as the club's most successful manager of the Premier League era. Yet he is bereft of two notable achievements. The first blot on the Scot's managerial copybook is the well-publicised absence of a trophy, with Joe Royle's 1995 FA Cup win Everton's last taste of silverware.

The second, achieved by both Royle and Moyes' compatriot Walter Smith, is a win at Anfield.

If it is such tangible accomplishments Moyes craves, he stands on the brink of an historic success. Even if Everton are defeated at Anfield this weekend, they would still have a two-point advantage over Liverpool in the battle for Mersey pride. Moyes is already the only Everton manager to have led his side to a higher Premier League finish than Liverpool - doing so in both 2004-05 and 2011-12 - and, should they still stand above their city rivals come May 18, he would become the first post-war Toffees boss to claim successive higher top-flight finishes than their city rivals.

For the Everton fans who have watched Liverpool win no fewer than ten trophies since Dave Watson lifted the FA Cup aloft at Wembley back in 1995, a summer of jokes at the expense of friends, families and work colleagues of a red disposition would be particularly satisfying.

However, it is a return to a regular place among the elite that those supporters in blue so desire. Everton's most recent dreams of a return to the Champions League qualifying rounds they last graced in 2005 were all but ended by a gut-wrenching loss to Sunderland on their last away day. Local bragging rights would be a consolation prize.

Finishing above their rivals is of course by no means assured for Everton, who still face West Ham at home and, more importantly, a trip to Champions League-chasing Chelsea on the final day of the season. With Liverpool travelling to Fulham and then hosting relegated QPR in their last game, there is every chance that Brendan Rodgers can steer the Reds to a sixth-place finish - an admirable effort in what has been a season of rebuilding at Anfield.

There has been some breathtaking attacking football to behold from Liverpool at times, exemplified by last week's 6-0 destruction of Newcastle. But it has often been tempered by defensive naivety, with the decision to reinstate the soon-to-be retired Jamie Carragher to the heart of defence showing a recognition that it is crucial to marry youth and experience when constructing a new team.

Carragher's departure for the bright lights of football punditry will be a major loss for Liverpool, particularly on days such as this Sunday: the boyhood Everton fan has been a near ever-present in derbies for 15 years. While Carragher's temperament will be missed in future matches, it is the temperamental Luis Suarez who will be the notable absentee again at Anfield. In the reverse fixture at Goodison back in October, Suarez took centre stage with a virtuoso display that should have given Liverpool the spoils. Playing a role in both of Liverpool's goals as they rushed into a 2-0 lead, the Uruguayan produced an enduring image with his diving celebration in front of a bemused Moyes, who before the match had accused him of a fondness for simulation. Everton fought back to level the scores at 2-2 before Suarez was controversially denied a last-gasp winner by the assistant's offside flag.

Merseyside meetings certainly have a reputation for fireworks, with the on-pitch tempestuousness regularly belying its "friendly derby" label, and though there has been only one red card in the past three seasons - the questionable dismissal of Jack Rodwell in October 2011 - no Premier League fixture has produced more red cards than its 20. With league position and civic pride at stake, the 220th Merseyside derby could be a fittingly frenetic farewell for Carragher, and maybe Moyes.

Liverpool player to watch: Daniel Sturridge. Any concerns that Luis Suarez's absence would adversely affect the Reds were washed away by a splendid performance from Sturridge against Newcastle. While Sturridge's former team-mate Fernando Torres has managed seven goals in 32 Premier League games for Chelsea, the England striker has scored seven goals in 11 matches for Liverpool in what has been an impressive start to his Anfield career. Sturridge has a good record against Everton, having scored in three of his last four games against the Toffees for Chelsea and Bolton.

Everton player to watch: Victor Anichebe. An impact sub for the majority of his seven-year spell with Toffees, Anichebe had started just 39 Premier League games prior to this season. However, with persistent injury problems apparently now behind him, the Nigerian has 16 starts to his name in 2012-13 and has kept Nikica Jelavic out of the side in recent weeks. Anichebe, whose physicality and work-rate have won David Moyes over, also holds the remarkable record of never having lost a match in which he has scored. Everton will be hoping that run continues on Saturday.

Key battle: Philippe Coutinho v Steven Pienaar. The creative focal points of their respective teams, Coutinho and Pienaar are capable of the sort of artistry that is required to unlock the opposition on a derby battlefield. Liverpool's Brazilian maestro has been a revelation since arriving in January and was on top form again in the 6-0 destruction of Newcastle. Pienaar also provided a notable contribution last week, scoring Everton's match-winning goal against Fulham. The South Africa playmaker missed October's derby through suspension and will be keen to make amends by playing an influential role at Anfield.

Trivia: Under David Moyes, Everton have played 44 away games against the former "big four" of Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool and are yet to win. They have taken just 17 points from 132 on offer.

Stats: Lucas Leiva has made a tackle more frequently than any other player in the Premier League this season (every 14.9 minutes on average). Expect him to up that average at Anfield.

Odds: Given their imperious record at Anfield against their rivals, it is not surprising that Liverpool are favourites at 2.00 with bet365, while Everton are 3.75 and the draw is 3.50.

Prediction: Liverpool have looked stronger and stronger in recent weeks, and should just edge the derby despite the absence of Luis Suarez.

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