MERSEY­SIDE DERBY COULD BE SILVA’S LAST STAND

▶ The Por­tuguese is un­der mount­ing pres­sure with Ever­ton 26 points and 16 places be­hind Premier League lead­ers and cross-city ri­vals Liver­pool

The National - News - - SPORT - RICHARD JOLLY

Per­haps it ranked as the un­der­state­ment of the sea­son. “It will be tough,” Marco Silva said. Some would have said “im­pos­si­ble” ranked as the more ap­pro­pri­ate ad­jec­tive.

Liver­pool and Ever­ton are sep­a­rated by a few hun­dred me­tres, but by 16 places and 26 points. They are league lead­ers and the side perched pre­car­i­ously one po­si­tion above the rel­e­ga­tion zone.

Ever­ton have a soli­tary away win this sea­son. Liver­pool have not lost at home for 47 games.

Mersey­side’s Blues have not re­turned across Stanley Park with a vic­tory this mil­len­nium. If Silva has one game to save his job, he must wish it was not the Mersey­side derby.

He could not voice those sen­ti­ments, of course. “Twenty years with­out a win there is a long time but it is a good op­por­tu­nity to change that,” said the be­lea­guered Por­tuguese.

“They are beat­ing almost ev­ery­one they’re play­ing against but we go there to play, the form is not im­por­tant be­cause you’re play­ing a derby.”

“They can sort out prob­lems with a win,” said Jur­gen Klopp, though Ever­ton’s re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence is that prob­lems are com­pounded by a meet­ing with their neigh­bours. They played ad­mirably at An­field a year ago, but a dread­ful blun­der by Jor­dan Pick­ford gifted Divock Origi a 96th-minute win­ner.

Klopp’s ex­u­ber­ant cel­e­bra­tions, as he charged on to the pitch to hug Alis­son, earned him an £8,000 (Dh38,000) fine for mis­con­duct.

“A very strange goal and my cel­e­bra­tion which I said sorry for,” the Ger­man added.

“That will not hap­pen again, not even in a derby.”

In one re­spect, it is a cer­tainty there will be no re­peat: Alis­son is sus­pended af­ter Satur­day’s send­ing-off against Brighton and Hove Al­bion.

Adrian will deputise but while his per­for­mances have not been flaw­less, his record is: with 27 points from nine games, he has been Liver­pool’s im­pec­ca­ble un­der­study.

The num­bers are al­to­gether less flat­ter­ing for Ever­ton. Over the course of Silva’s reign, they have taken 69 fewer points than Liver­pool.

Theirs is a brand of ex­pen­sive un­der­achieve­ment. “Go through the Ever­ton squad, no­body de­nies it is a re­ally good squad,” Klopp said. “It’s just not click­ing 100 per cent.”

It was not meant as crit­i­cism – the Liver­pool man­ager ref­er­enced their ri­vals’ “dif­fi­cult in­juries,” par­tic­u­larly the ab­sence of An­dre Gomes – but even as he voiced his sup­port for Silva, it un­der­lined the sense Ever­ton should be do­ing bet­ter. “There is a lot of pres­sure, of course,” Klopp added.

“Ever­ton is an am­bi­tious club, rightly so. Of course, I have sym­pa­thy for him. I know how dif­fi­cult the life of a man­ager is.

“But I think the last thing Marco needs now is that I feel kind of sorry for him. We ex­pect Ever­ton at their best. The last game against Le­ices­ter they were re­ally good.”

Ever­ton were con­demned to de­feat deep into in­jury time at Le­ices­ter; if that was luck­less, af­ter fac­ing the side in sec­ond, now they have the league lead­ers. Yet the fact that they have lost seven times in 10 games shows their fail­ings against the lesser lights have taken Silva to the brink.

“Some games we were win­ning and should have man­aged in a dif­fer­ent way, some we were bet­ter than the op­po­si­tion but didn’t score,” he re­flected. “I’m here to find solutions.”

Whether he is still in place when neigh­bours meet again in Jan­uary’s FA Cup tie is an­other matter, though Silva claimed his board “don’t need to say any­thing” by way of re­as­sur­ance. Bul­letins from the med­i­cal depart­ment have been bleak enough, with Fabian Delph, Seamus Cole­man, JeanPhilip­pe Gbamin and Gomes out, even if Theo Wal­cott is fit again.

Liver­pool have rather dif­fer­ent is­sues. Slightly cheek­ily, Klopp re­ferred to Jan­uary as “the Man City trans­fer win­dow.” With only Fabinho and Joel Matip out, he may not need re­in­force­ments. He does have four of the top seven fin­ish­ers in the Bal­lon d’Or vot­ing, with Vir­gil van Dijk pipped to the prize by Lionel Messi.

“Last sea­son I can­not re­mem­ber a more im­pres­sive sea­son by a de­fender ever,” Klopp said. It was not quite enough for the Dutch­man to claim the in­di­vid­ual award, but it was the type of prob­lem Silva and Ever­ton would love to have.

Reuters

Left, Liver­pool man­ager Jur­gen Klopp says the last thing Marco Silva needs is for him to feel sorry for his predica­ment at Ever­ton

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