A double dose of the Shite

Everton will face city-rivals Liverpool twice in six days at Anfield, Liverpool’s home ground. On Monday, it will be a league match, with the result to determine whether the Red Shite regain first place. Six days later, the two sides will square off in the fourth round of the FA Cup, the big English tournament that takes place concurrently with the regular season.

A few decades ago, when Everton and Liverpool both were among Europe’s top teams, it was not unusual for them to meet in the Cup, and they produced some memorable clashes including two finals. However, Everton and Liverpool have not met in the FA Cup since 1991. That year, they drew 0-0 in the first meeting and 4-4 in the replay, with Everton coming from behind four times. Everton finally finished off Liverpool 1-0 in the second replay on a goal by stalwart defender Dave Watson.

This marked the beginning of Liverpool’s fall from the throne of English football. Their manager, Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish resigned after the 4-4 draw (reportedly there had been turmoil in the Liverpool dressing room after the match), even though his club was still alive in the Cup and was first the league. The Shite have not finished first in the league since. Everton was already in a more dramatic decline, and would come close to falling out of England’s top league on multiple occasions over the next decade.

As for the upcoming clashes, I can’t really say I’m looking forward to them. It’s been ten years since we’ve beaten Liverpool at Anfield. Moreover, we’ll be without Marouane Fellaini, our fine new midfielder. Manager David Moyes recklessly declined to remove the young Belgian last week after we built a two goal lead, even though Fellaini was one yellow card away from a two-match suspension, which he promptly earned.

Some Evertonians think the suspension is a blessing in disguise because, in the heat of a Derby, the rash young Fellaini could easily pick up a red card which would leave us playing a man down. But with our top two forwards sidelined with injuries, we’ll almost certainly miss the tall Belgian midfielder, who represents one of our few scoring threats.

We may be getting Liverpool at a good time. They were unimpressive last week in a 0-0 draw with Stoke City, and their Spanish coach seems to be fueding with their American owners (our Liverpudlian owner gets on famously with our Scottish coach). Meanwhile, we’ve been tough to beat lately. But there’s nothing like the sight of Everton to get Liverpool revved up and focused again.

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