Age-old derby rivalries will take centre-stage in the Premier League on Saturday, with Liverpool hosting Merseyside neighbours Everton and Tottenham Hotspur visiting sworn north London enemies Arsenal.
The fixtures are among the most colourful in the English football calendar and they carry extra weight this weekend as all four teams are seeking to kick on after underwhelming starts to the season.
Liverpool narrowly lost out to Manchester City in last season’s title race and Everton finished fifth with a record points tally, but they are currently 11th and 14th respectively ahead of their showdown at Anfield. Liverpool have lost three of their opening five games and needed penalties to see off second-tier Middlesbrough in the League Cup on Tuesday, edging a remarkable shoot-out 14-13 after a 2-2 draw.
Everton, meanwhile, have won only once in the league and saw their League Cup hopes ended by a 3-0 defeat at Swansea City.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has described his team as a “work in progress”, but he believes that the visit of Everton can act as a springboard for the season. “We know we need to be better. We know we need to improve our performance levels,” Rodgers said. “The derby gives us an opportunity to do that. It provides a platform to go on a good, consistent run.”
Everton went down 3-2 at home to Crystal Palace last weekend, but although they have not won at Anfield for 15 years, manager Roberto Martinez says they will approach the game with a positive attitude. “The defeat against Crystal Palace, there was something spooky about it,” he said, in reference to the fact that Palace had also won 3-2 on their previous visit to Goodison Park in April. “The last time we beat Liverpool at Anfield was September 27 (in 1999), so I hope the spookiness carries on at the weekend.”
Having won 3-0 at Aston Villa last weekend following three consecutive draws, Arsenal are starting to move in the right direction and go into the game with Tottenham in fourth place. But they lost 2-0 at Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League and were dumped out of the League Cup in mid-week by Southampton.