When David Moyes one day takes his leave of Goodison Park, he will be remembered as one of Everton's greatest managers. Guiding the club safely through choppy waters in an era when others have lavished huge sums that he has never even had a proportion of will see to that accolade.
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There are, however, significant blots to his copybook. Post-war equivalents like Harry Catterick and Howard Kendall brought multiple league titles to Everton - a feat that, for Moyes, has been impossible - but they also had far better records against Liverpool. Moyes, in over ten years at Goodison Park, has registered just four wins for what he calls "the People's Club" against their rivals in red. It is a poor return, and has been especially so in recent years.
On the balance of last season, Everton were Merseyside's best team, far better in the Premier League as Kenny Dalglish's second reign faltered. This season has seen that ascendancy continue, with Everton the form team of the early weeks as Liverpool began as badly as they have in their entire history. Everton are now fourth, eight places above Brendan Rodgers' team. Moyes has been able to offer continuity where Liverpool have chopped and changed. Rodgers will become the fifth Liverpool manager he has faced, and the fourth in three years.
Dalglish's second tenure ended in the ignominy of being sacked, but his only full season saw three victories over Everton. The first came in disputed circumstances when Jack Rodwell was sent off for what looked a decent tackle on Luis Suarez. The second, in March of this year, arrived via a Steven Gerrard hat-trick that made him the first to hit a treble in the derby fixture since Ian Rush in 1982.
The third, however, was worse still for Moyes as it came at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final. A game his team had within their grasp through a Nikica Jelavic goal was suddenly surrendered by a catastrophic Sylvain Distin error that allowed Suarez to level. Andy Carroll's winner arrived late, but by then Everton's confidence had been shredded. Yet again, they looked to have an inferiority complex against Liverpool, despite there being much evidence to the contrary.
While Rodgers has spent much of this season searching for a formula, Moyes has a set way of playing that has brought him notable success. However, both share the problem of sparse resources. Any knock to Suarez, as durable as he undoubtedly is, must send shivers down Rodgers' spine; Moyes also cannot afford to do without his leading lights, but he may well have to do so here.
One of the roots of that failure at Wembley was the unavailability of Steven Pienaar - cup-tied then and suspended here after a red card at QPR last week. Marouane Fellaini may play a part but is coming back from an injury sustained while playing for Belgium. His ability to affect matters in all areas of the pitch would be missed if he fails a fitness test, and another key absentee is Darron Gibson, which may come as a surprise to Manchester United fans, though Moyes has made a player of the Irishman.
Rodgers, coming off two 1-0 wins, has begun to turn a corner. When you get a goal out of Stewart Downing like that against Anzhi then you must be doing something right. This may be a good time to play the Merseyside derby, but then again it has too often been a good time for Liverpool to face Everton when Moyes has been in charge.
Everton player to watch: Nikica Jelavic. One of the key reasons for Everton's improvement since the beginning of 2012 has been some fine transfer dealing by Moyes. January saw the arrival of Gibson and the Croatia striker, who provided the leader of the line Everton had been lacking for far too long. He is also a fine finisher, as shown by his opportunist strike at Wembley. Liverpool will expect to dominate possession, so Jelavic will have to take his chances when they are presented to him. Many will back him to do so.
Liverpool player to watch: Joe Allen. Talking of Croats, Allen said he wanted to become as good a player as Luka Modric after being given the run-around in last week's World Cup qualifier when playing for Wales. He has some way to go to reach that standard, and further still to match the standards of Xavi and Andres Iniesta, to whom some of Liverpool's more pie-eyed fans have compared him, but Allen has undoubtedly settled well at his new club. It helps that he is working with a manager who has clear trust in him, but Allen already looks an Anfield perennial.
Key battle: Leighton Baines v Raheem Sterling. At 17, Sterling has become a key Liverpool player, so much so that he was rested for half the Europa League game with Anzhi. A first goal for the club against Reading embellished a burgeoning reputation, and he has also been praised by members of the England squad for the diligence and talent he showed in training when called up as an unused substitute against Ukraine. Baines will have been taking notes, though Sterling will also have recognised the Everton full-back's many qualities. Baines is a key supply line for Everton from the flank and one of Sterling's key jobs will be to pen him back. Rodgers clearly trusts him to do so, and speaks highly of Sterling's willingness to listen and dance to his tune.
Trivia: Only two players have scored in this fixture for both clubs, if we do not include Sandy Brown's infamous own goal in 1969-70. David Johnson scored for Everton in 1971 before then going on to play for Liverpool via Ipswich Town. He scored twice for Liverpool in this fixture, the last coming in March 1980. Peter Beardsley repeated the feat when scoring for Everton in December 1992.
Stats: A clean sheet is vital for Moyes' team to secure victory. All four of Moyes' victories against Liverpool have come when the Reds have failed to score.
Odds: Everton are slight favourites at 2.60 at bet365, with Liverpool at 2.75 and the draw at 3.30. A 1-0 Everton win is available at 9.00, while a 1-0 Liverpool win is 9.50.
Prediction: Another win for Everton's bogey team.
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