All 205 league meetings between Liverpool and Everton have come in the top flight. Few have been as loaded with consequence for both ends of the table as the 206th, and whether there will be a 207th next season is an issue that concerns not only Frank Lampard.
“Yes of course,” stated Jürgen Klopp, when asked whether he would miss the most-played derby in English football if it disappeared from the calendar. “We are all used to two clubs in the city and that is how it is. All around the derbies, it is slightly different this week because we played [Manchester] United, but usually the full week before you play Everton all the talk is about the derby. Of course I would [miss it]. ” Many in red, however, will revel in their local rivals’ predicament on Sunday.
Lampard, not exactly popular at Anfield at the best of times, will experience his first Merseyside derby with Everton in the relegation zone should Burnley avoid defeat at home to Wolves earlier in the day. The prospect of an instant riposte appears remote. Liverpool’s pursuit of an unprecedented quadruple has gathered momentum in the past week with emphatic defeats of both Manchester clubs. They boast the best home record in the Premier League this season. No team has collected fewer points on the road than Everton, who have lost all six away matches under Rafael Benítez’s successor.
Lampard is acutely aware of the expectation – when offered the chance to take a draw on Friday he said: “Of course I would!” – and what the continuation of the fixture means to his club.
The Everton manager said: “I understand it. I have friends who are Evertonians and there are people I bump into. I bumped into a nice lady in London a couple of weeks ago who was an Evertonian. It was in a place I didn’t expect to see an Evertonian. It was on the Kings Road. We had a day or two off after the Manchester United game and I was having lunch with my wife and the lady came over. It isn’t just a one-off; it happens all the time since I got the job. Evertonians have come out of everywhere, so while that has not been a reminder, I am aware of the size of this club, it does makes you proud.
“It is a club steeped in history, that families and generations adore, and I understand what a win will mean for them. It is twofold for me. Firstly it is obviously the points. The points are so crucial for us. If we were sitting in eighth or 10th I could think about what this might mean, I could walk through the blue half of the city and it would be great the next day. But at the moment I am just thinking about the points. It would be a great feeling to be able to give the fans that moment. There was Carlo’s [Ancelotti’s] win last season but we haven’t had enough of those. ”
Liverpool’s form demands appreciation irrespective of local rivalry, Lampard admits. “Nobody watching the first half against Manchester United could do anything but think: ‘Wow,'” he said. “If you love football, you love watching that. Speed, accuracy of pass, great quality levels, energy in the team, everything. ”
Klopp was diplomatic in his appraisal of Everton’s decline. The Liverpool manager said: “I think the situation got more and more difficult because of results and stuff like this. When Rafa was there, there was still some distance between Everton and the relegation zone and that was nothing to do with the way they played, it was just the way it developed. They had real injury problems this year. If you cannot use [Dominic] Calvert-Lewin for nearly a whole season it is a massive blow – he is one of the best strikers in England for sure. Then he’s coming back and not having rhythm. You don’t have 12 of these players in your squad. ”
Lampard was involved in a heated exchange with Klopp the last time he managed at Anfield, with Chelsea in July 2020, when a behind-closed-doors fixture meant his words were clearly heard. “All of us get it wrong at times,” he reflected. “I’ve seen Jürgen since then and everything is fine. I wanted to say to him: ‘You’ve done it before!’
“I suppose as young managers it is one thing you try and keep a hold on, because you have the fire in your belly so much that sometimes it comes out not as you might want it. We all have our moments. I’ll be competitive on the line on Sunday because I want to win the game and I’m sure he will be the same. That is just the world we live in. ”