FIVE days ago, Everton would have thought this was the best time of all to play Liverpool and muster a first victory against them in more than a decade.
But sometimes things change quickly in football. Now Liverpool look like a rather different proposition. They beat RB Leipzig in the Champions League last-16 match in midweek, and were a far cry from the troubled English champions they had been just days and weeks before.
Indeed, Liverpool played with the sort of swagger that earned them a first league title in three decades last season and a sixth Champions League trophy 12 months prior to that.
The return to scoring form of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane was a welcome relief for the Reds, as too was goalkeeper Allison Becker’s performance in Budapest, where the Leipzig clash was rearranged because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Young Curtis Jones also had a good game and was singled out for special mention by manager Jurgen Klopp and several pundits.
The 20-year-old did himself no harm with a polished performance that highlighted his blossoming ability and underscored an attitude and temperament that many forecast will take him to the very top of the game. He will be another one Everton will need to keep an eye on if he gets going.
The Toffees were soundly beaten by Man City on Wednesday night and now have it all to do against their Merseyside neighbours.
The good thing for Everton about this game though, is that the Liverpool derby, like many others, is not usually swayed by the form book and recent runs, but rather by passion – and passion alone.
Still, Everton are coming up against the odds. They have not beaten Liverpool in the league since Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta, now Arsenal manager, propelled them to a 2-0 win when David Moyes was in charge at Goodison Park in October 2010.
In fact that was the last time Everton beat the Reds in any competition. And unless Carlo Ancelotti can inspire his squad to the type of form they showed at the start of the season when they briefly led the Premier League table, they could see that victory drought against their ol’ enemy extended today.
Everton, who were without top striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin for the successive league losses to Fulham and Man City, may yet have the 23-year-old in their side today.
Ancelotti said they expected Calvert-Lewin to have recovered from a hamstring pull suffered in the FA Cup win over Tottenham last week, in time for the derby.