Everton have not tasted victory against Liverpool at Anfield this century. For a ground which strangely holds fond memories for the Blues – they called it home for seven years in the late 1880s and early 1890s and won their first league title there in 1891 – Anfield has become a place where Evertonians, both players and fans, fear to tread.
In their last 17 games on the patch of their bitter rivals, Everton have drawn nine times and lost on eight occasions. In contrast, Liverpool have won nine of their last 17 games at Goodison Park, losing just four.
The ghastly record makes grim reading for the blue half of the city. They may have just about navigated their way through one of the worst periods in their history during the late 1990s/early 2000s, but in the years that have followed Everton have developed an inferiority complex against Liverpool.
Under David Moyes, Everton were often meek and submissive when plying their trade at Anfield. The Sunderland manager had a largely positive impact during his time at Goodison, but his attitude towards games played on the other side of Stanley Park was one of the biggest bugbears Evertonians had about him during his relatively successful tenure on Merseyside.
Under Roberto Martinez, Everton were if anything worse, despite the Catalonian's 'sin miedo' approach. Two comprehensive 4-0 defeats and a drab 1-1 draw courtesy of a Phil Jagielka thunderbolt ensured that the winless run at Anfield was prolonged and worsened.
Under Ronald Koeman, Everton have a manager who will not be overawed by the impassioned atmosphere of a Merseyside derby. The Dutchman was made for the big stage: he netted the winner for Barcelona in the 1992 European Cup final and scored a penalty for Holland as they beat West Germany to win Euro 1988.
The derby seemed too much for Moyes at times, while the results under Martinez speak for themselves. But Koeman relishes and knows how to operate in the big occasion, and he has an impressive record in games such as these.
During his two seasons at Southampton, Koeman won at Old Trafford twice and also emerged victorious at Stamford Bridge and White Hart Lane, while successes against Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal at the St Mary's strengthened his reputation and record against the more prodigious sides. Between them, Moyes and Martinez managed to leave the Theatre of Dreams with a win just once, and never came away from Chelsea's ground with all three points.
Koeman's managerial and playing pedigree is comfortably better than that of his predecessors, and his approach to the derby will presumably be a marked improvement when compared to messrs Moyes and Martinez. The former Barcelona legend's presence at Everton has influenced and improved many on Merseyside, including precocious attackers Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku, who will be nothing short of vital to their side's fortunes at Anfield.
Lukaku's future is a bone of contention for Evertonians, but the impending summer furore over his signature means nothing in the here and now. The 23-year-old is in the form of his life at the moment but is yet to score against for the Toffees at Anfield, though a variety of circumstances have prevented him from firing on all cylinders on Liverpool's home patch.
Lukaku's first derby lasted around quarter of an hour courtesy of an accidental collision with Gareth Barry, which ruled him out for a month. He managed to complete his second but was shoehorned out on the right wing as then-manager Martinez decided to play his £28m striker out of position in order to accommodate Steven Naismith.
An out-of-form Lukaku did come close to breaking his Anfield derby duck in April last year but was stifled by Mamadou Sakho just as he was about to let fire. With chances largely few and far between in a derby, the Belgian international will have to be at his cold, clinical best to have any chance of breaking his and Everton's Anfield hoodoo.
With Lukaku in scintillating form and fully fit, he finally has the opportunity to showcase his true self at Anfield. The same applies for boyhood blue Ross Barkley, who is no doubt itching to write his name into Goodison folklore with a goal against Jurgen Klopp's side.
The Wavertree-born playmaker is in fine fettle ahead of the weekend and is primed and ready to make a telling impact at Anfield, something he has not been able to do in his Everton career so far. Barkley was rushed back from a toe injury and looked rather off the pace during his first Anfield derby in January 2014.
He then missed the next bout across Stanley Park through injury – once again caused by Barry, this time in a training session – and like the rest of Toffees teammates was woefully out of form during the last derby hosted by Liverpool, which ultimately proved to be little more than a training session for Klopp's men.
For the first time in their Everton careers, Barkley and Lukaku are both at the peak of their powers going into a Merseyside derby. Backed by an impressive supporting cast containing the likes of Tom Davies and Idrissa Gueye, the dangerous duo have a sturdy platform to cause Liverpool's questionable defence problems and put the brakes on an abysmal stretch of dour draws and chastening defeats at the home of their neighbours.
No matter how it is dressed up, Everton's record at Anfield since the turn of the millennium is simply pathetic. Significant changes have been made to the club's hierarchy and mentality over the last 12 months, with majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri's boundless ambition driving Koeman's men to the upper echelons of the Premier League and perhaps a wondrous waterfront stadium in the next few years.
The future is looking rather positive for the blue half of Merseyside, but if they want to be taken seriously and not be seen as 'plucky little Everton' by the masses now, victories at grounds like Anfield, Stamford Bridge etc. are a must.
With Seamus Coleman, Morgan Schneiderlin, Ramiro Funes Mori and James McCarthy struck down by injuries in recent days, Koeman's squad is being stretched at an inopportune moment. But with the Dutchman's winning mentality and innate ability to rise to the big occasion, combined with the hunger and form of Barkley, Lukaku et al, Everton are more than capable of ending their Anfield hoodoo once and for all.
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