They say imitation might be the highest form of flattery, though there is absolutely no love lost between Everton and Liverpool and neither side would ever wish to praise the other, especially on Merseyside derby week. However, that hasn’t stopped Carlo Ancelotti from setting his Toffees side up in a very similar way to Jurgen Klopp’s Reds.
Liverpool stormed to the Premier League title with a 4-3-3 formation with three talented forwards pressing high, a solid, industrious midfield three behind them, and two marauding full-backs bombing on and getting crosses in.
Now, nearly four months since Jordan Henderson lifted the biggest domestic trophy for Liverpool, rivals Everton are top of the table and out to claim their first derby win in a decade (exactly ten years to the day since their last, in fact!).
Of course, they are very different teams with their own strengths but on paper at least, the set-up and plan of action is certainly similar.
The red half of Merseyside boast the terrifying trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. Hunting for the ball in packs and defending Klopp’s side from the front, they hungrily snaffle any loose balls or harass the opposition into submission; then with a one-two at a hurtling pace, the ball usually ends up in the back of the net. Everton, though, under the guidance of their Italian mastermind of a coach Ancelotti this season, are just as ravenous and have actually scored more than their neighbours after four games.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin is in imperious form and has nine goals in six in all competitions. But it is perhaps the work-rate of Richarlison and world-class quality which has taken Everton to a new level.
Brazilian Richarlison chips in with plenty of goals, but it is his defensive duties from the front which makes the Everton machine purr and function to its maximum. He is eleventh in the current ranking for tackles this season in the Premier League, therefore ahead of the majority of defenders in the division. Then there is James Rodriguez, he’s breezed into the English top-flight and bossed it, making more chances than any other player. For the first time in a long while, the Toffees boast star men who can really match and hurt their foes from across Stanley Park.
While Liverpool’s success was also built on the strong midfield foundation of captain Henderson, Fabinho and Georginio Wijnadlum, the new Everton midfield of tough-tackling Allan, almost animalistic in his desire to win the ball, Abdoulaye Doucoure, full of boundless energy and Andre Gomes, skilful, savvy and with a keen eye for a searching pass, they can be equally vital cogs for the Toffees.
Then there are the wing-backs with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson almost like extra midfielders for Liverpool such is their attacking verve, range and threat. For Everton, Lucas Digne and Seamus Coleman surging forward will be just as key to how the Goodison side continue to score goals at such a rapid rate.
Everton may be lining up like their rivals, but the only real way they will want to emulate their rivals this season is the glory Liverpool have enjoyed all too often in recent times.
This is a massive game for the hosts. For the first time in a decade, possibly two - since their last win at Anfield, Everton can finally go into this fixture with real confidence with a 100% win record and knowing Liverpool’s last game ended in a 7-2 beating. It would mean so much more than just bragging rights, topping the table. It would go some way to proving to the Blues faithful that maybe, just maybe, Ancelotti has truly shifted the wounded mentality of a club who are finally back on the up.