LONDON: Gerard Houllier would be forgiven for thinking today’s Merseyside derby was even more important than usual.
Liverpool manager Houllier has seen his side score just one goal this season from three games.
The Reds are languishing in 15th place with just two points so far and although it is still early in the season many pundits have written off their title chances.
A goalless midweek draw at home to Tottenham did little to inspire confidence but ahead of today’s trip across Stanley Park to city rivals Everton’s Goodison Park ground, Houllier was doing his best to maintain an even keel.
“The derby will be a different story,” the Frenchman insisted. “I am delighted with the attitude and character my team are showing. The win will come as will the goals.”
Everton have made a steady start with four points from their first three games but star striker Wayne Rooney was on target in the midweek draw against Charlton.
But Toffees manager David Moyes said 17-year-old Rooney was not yet firing on all cylinders.
“I can only tell you when I think Wayne’s right and when he’s not.
“He’s getting fitter but he’s not quite getting past people the way he can.”
Leaders Arsenal are away to Manchester City tomorrow while defending champions Manchester United, who also have a 100% record but are currently second on goal difference, travel to Southampton.
And Arsenal striker Thierry Henry said the team were prepared to win 'ugly’ if it meant taking the title back to Highbury.
“Some people say we let in too many last season and lost too many leads to win the championship. Maybe that is right and we are working on it,” the France forward added.
“But it is not always the quality that matters. You have to have commitment and desire all the time.
“We know that on our day we can fight against any team in the world for quality but sometimes you find it is not your day for playing well and then you have to find a way to win maybe 1-0.
“The manager wants us to defend more positively and I think that so far it is going well.
“And we can still score perhaps even more if we challenge higher up the field and win the ball back.
“The quicker you do that the better because the most important thing is getting the ball back after you have lost it.”
United travel to the south coast with England midfielder Paul Scholes set to soldier on despite a hernia problem.
“Paul has been carrying a hernia problem for quite a bit,” said United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
“It is really painful and at the moment it is not possible for him to play two games in a week.
“He will need an operation at some point but we will have to pick our moment.”
United, meanwhile, have injury doubts over Rio Ferdinand, Mikael Silvestre, Nicky Butt and Quinton Fortune.
Elsewhere, two of the Premiership new boys, Wolverhampton and Portsmouth, go head to head at Molineux.
They have had contrasting starts to their Premiership season. Portsmouth – last season’s First Division champions – are unbeaten, two wins and a draw leaving them in third place.
Earlier in the week, they thrashed Bolton 4-0 at Fratton Park and are, in the words of Wolves boss Dave Jones, “flying at the moment”.
By contrast, Wolves are propping up the table, the Midlands club the only team in the Premier League without a point.
They have conceded 10 goals in their three games but pushed United hard in a 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford last time out.
“Of course, we are not going to get carried away but two wins in the first three games is certainly better than losing two or three,” said Portsmouth’s ex-England midfielder Steve Stone.
But Wolves would love nothing more than to upset the Pompey bandwagon. – AFP