Pienaar’s suspension gives Liverpool edge in Merseyside derby
Playmaker's absence detracts from Baines threat and leaves Toffees too reliant on Fellaini
Steven Pienaar’s contentious dismissal against QPR last time out is a huge for blow for Everton’s chances in the Merseyside derby.
Everton, who have only beaten their red rivals once in the past 11 Premier League clashes, are slight favourites to come out on top at 8/5, with home advantage expected to make the difference here.
But, without their South African playmaker, they’re left too one-dimensional to ask enough questions of a Liverpool back line well-equipped to deal with the aerial threat that Marouane Fellaini poses, which breathes value into Liverpool’s price of 17/10.
The tactic worked a charm when they toppled Man United on the opening day of the season, yet the Red Devils fielded an unfit Nemanja Vidic alongside an out-of-position Michael Carrick at the heart of their defence and the big-haired Belgian found bullying the pair the simplest of tasks.
Burly Martin Skrtel is not likely to allow that to happen so Everton won’t be able to resort to this approach with the same relentlessness, which is why Pienaar’s absence will be critical for them.
His ability to bring the ball in from the left and run in between centre-back and full-back is an area where Skrtel, who lacks pace, could be exploited, yet his link up with Leighton Baines will prove to be the aspect the Toffees miss the most.
Baines’ end-product is arguably second to none in the Premier League, his crossing and finishing abilities will be the envy of many attacking players in the division. However, he relies heavily on Pienaar’s technical astuteness to feed him a pass inside the full-back, or his awareness in the final-third to anticipate the attacking runs his left-back will make.
Steven Naismith is the man likely to fill the former Ajax and Spurs man’s void, but he does not possess the telepathy shared between Everton’s first-choice left-flank pairing, thus Baines’ threat will be somewhat nullified.
With this being the case, Skrtel and Daniel Agger can ready themselves for an aerial bombardment at Goodison Park.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date