Mix ‘n’ Match: Everton can keep top four dream alive with Anfield win

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Everton’s take their flimsy top four hopes across Stanley Park to Anfield this weekend where Liverpool will be hoping to extinguish them for another season.

A price of 1/1 says the Reds will nail the bragging rights over their blue rivals but the numbers in our combined 11 suggest that the underdogs aren’t entirely without a chance.

Tim Howard got the nod over Pepe Reina in the net owing to the years of consistent service he’s given the Toffees. Liverpool’s Spanish stopper remains a capable net-minder, but he’s allowed a mistake to creep into his game in the past two seasons, despite keeping seven clean sheets in the past 15 Merseyside derbies.

Both clubs provide one half of the backline; a full back and a centre back apiece. Leighton Baines was an obvious selection at left back for his prowess going forward and set piece abilities, while Glen Johnson was an equally straightforward choice at right back, despite the protestations of Tony Hibbert.

Daniel Agger and Phil Jagielka hold the fort at the heart of defence. England international Jagielka provides the muscle leadership qualities, while Agger is as assured in possession as centre backs come. Between them the team can keep things tight, without allowing the team’s ability to retain the ball suffer.

Lucas will sit in front of them. Every top side needs a player capable of shifting play from back to front quickly, as well as harbouring the ability to put a tackle in when the situation dictates and, of the two squads, the Brazilian is by far and away the best at this.

Steven Gerrard and Marouane Fellaini were shoo-in central midfield picks. The pair can attack, defend, score inside and outside the box; they’re strong enough to win any physical battle and they have the technical ability to pick passes too.

There were plenty of wide options in either squad who could have performed more than adequately, but we went for Stewart Downing and Steven Pienaar.

Downing’s top flight experience and exquisite delivery got him the nod over Coutinho, whereas Pienaar’s ability to link up with Baines down the Everton left can be devastating at times and it got him the nod over in-form Belgian, Kevin Mirallas.

Up front is the only area where Liverpool’s talents dwarf those of their local rivals. Victor Anichebe and Nikica Jelavic look like pub league players compared to Luis Suarez, while even Daniel Sturridge offers infinitely more in the final third than either.

However, unless you’ve been living on top of a mountain for the past few weeks, you’ll be aware that the only factor that separates these two teams – Suarez – is unable to feature in the game. This evens things out significantly, meaning the massive 13/5 on offer for the Everton win might be worth a cheeky punt.

All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date

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