With Everton currently in financial peril, the Merseyside Derby doesn't have quite the inherent importance in the table as it's had in recent years. Once a near lock for a top half spot and a favorite to qualify for Europa League, the Toffees are now a team who simply want to avoid the giant mess that is the relegation battle until they can settle their financial situation. Still, they possess a lot of fantastic talent and should provide a great test for Liverpool, who need to rebound after an embarrassing loss against top four rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
After a long layoff due to injury, Steven Gerrard now appears to be fit enough to return to the 18-man squad for Liverpool. They'll need him, as Charlie Adam hasn't started well this season while Jordan Henderson has been used as more of a right winger than a central midfield player. Lucas has been a consistent fixture for Liverpool over the last season-plus, but between Gerrard's injuries, Adam's shaky start to the 2011-12 season and the disaster that was the Alberto Aquilani signing, the Reds are in need of some consistency from the center of the pitch. If Gerrard can become even 80 percent of the player he was during the majority of the last decade, Liverpool are potential Champions League favorites.
Manchester City were eventually able to defeat Everton last week, but it wasn't due to any breakdown in the center of midfield. Gerrard's return will be complicated by the presence of Jack Rodwell and Marouane Fellaini, two monstrous defensive midfielders. Tim Cahill, who could play as either an attacking midfielder or a striker, will come back and defend. Everton are a limited side, but they always make things difficult for their opposition in the center of the pitch.
Up top, the Reds have a selection dilemma, as Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez haven't exactly made a great partnership this season. Additionally, while Liverpool are yet to find any consistency out of their center of midfield besides Lucas, they're certainly loaded in that area of the pitch as far as raw talent goes. Signs point to Kenny Dalglish playing both of them in a 4-4-2, but his options are fairly unlimited, and he could opt for dropping Carroll in favor of a midfielder.
Coming off of losses to Stoke and Tottenham, followed by a hard-fought and hardly deserved win over Wolverhampton Wanderers, Liverpool are in need of a Merseyside Derby win. With the match taking place at Goodison Park, it's likely that Everton will have other plans.
Everton vs. Liverpool
Time: 1:45 pm BST, 7:45 am EST
Venue: Goodison Park, Liverpool, England
TV: Sky Sports 2 (UK), ESPN2 (USA - English), ESPN Deportes (USA - Spanish), TSN (Canada)
Online: ESPN3.com (USA)
We'll have live coverage of the Merseyside Derby and all of the rest of this week's Premier League fixtures in our English Premier League Week 7 StoryStream. Check out Everton blog Royal Blue Mersey and Liverpool blog Anfield Asylum for more on the two teams. Head over to SB Nation Soccer for more on the entire world of football.