Gu­eye – Hope­fully it’s my turn to score at Anfi eld

The Observer - Sport - - Front Page -

The Mersey­side derby is al­ways a big event for a small cor­ner of north- west Eng­land and nowa­days it is big in north- west Africa, too. In Sene­gal, to be pre­cise, a coun­try proud of the fact that na­tional he­roes Sa­dio Mané and Idrissa Gu­eye will be lin­ing up against each other this af­ter­noon at Anfi eld. “Ev­ery­one back home will be watch­ing the game,” says Ever­ton’s Gu­eye . “I know that for a fact be­cause last sea­son I made a bad tackle on Sa­dio and I got mes­sages straight away telling me to be care­ful about hurt­ing him.”

The pair are friends, reg­u­larly trav­el­ling to­gether to play for the na­tional team, though they sus­pend the chats and ban­ter in the week be­fore a derby. “We like to play a lit­tle game, as if we were sup­port­ers of Liver­pool and Ever­ton,” Gu­eye ex­plains. “About a week be­fore the derby we stop talk­ing. We don’t send mes­sages to each other and we don’t call. Sa­dio started it, he said: ‘ Don’t call me,’ and I said: ‘ OK, no prob­lem.’ We will start talk­ing to each other again once the game is over. If we win I am go­ing to call him up straight away. He scored in the derby once and came to me af­ter­wards say­ing maybe next time Ever­ton might win. Hope­fully the next time it will be my turn to do that.”

An Ever­ton win at Anfi eld has still to hap­pen this mil­len­nium. Gu­eye would have been 10 years old and still liv­ing in Dakar when Kevin Camp­bell’s early strike set­tled the 1999 event. At least Ever­ton can cross Stan­ley Park with a lit­tle more confi - dence now that Marco Silva has them play­ing on the front foot and in the top third of the ta­ble.

Last sea­son, a very dif­fer­ent Ever­ton un­der Sam Al­lardyce set them­selves up for a draw and gained one, se­cur­ing a point from just two shots on tar­get and 21% posses­sion. “We more or less lived in their box,” Jür­gen Klopp said of the game, be­fore un­wisely chal­leng­ing the press room to agree with him that Ever­ton’s equal­is­ing penalty had been wrongly awarded. Even at Anfi eld a show of hands went against the Liver­pool man­ager.

Ever­ton are im­proved this sea­son, though Al­lardyce’s un­pop­u­lar stint did not set the bar par­tic­u­larly high

‘ We showed at Chelsea we can deal with play­ing the top teams – we played foot­ball and caused them a lot of prob­lems’

and it is de­bat­able whether they are play­ing as well as they would like to be af­ter 13 games un­der Silva. “We are mak­ing progress, get­ting bet­ter with each game,” is Gu­eye’s as­sess­ment.

“We are a dif­fer­ent team now, last sea­son we were a lit­tle bit in trou­ble. This sea­son we are grow­ing in confi - dence . We showed at Chelsea we can deal with play­ing the top teams. We didn’t go there just to get a point, we played foot­ball and caused them a lot of prob­lems. So we can go to Anfi eld to try and win, I think, but it is not up to me how we ap­proach the game, it is up to the man­ager.

“The one thing I can say is that we are not wor­ried about our record at Anfi eld – we can mo­ti­vate our­selves with­out that. We just want to con­cen­trate on our good form.

“Peo­ple say this is Ever­ton’s big­gest game of the sea­son but we don’t nec­es­sar­ily look at it that way. Ev­ery game is im­por­tant for us, ev­ery game is an op­por­tu­nity to take three points. The derby is al­ways a big game, but it is not the big­gest. It is im­por­tant for the fans and the club and we will do our best to give them what they want.”

Scouted for Ever­ton by the man who found N’Golo Kanté for Le­ices­ter – Steve Walsh even went so far as to de­scribe the for­mer Lille and As­ton Villa mid­fielder as the new Kanté – Gu­eye has found him­self play­ing a lit­tle deeper this sea­son as a re­sult of the ar­rival of An­dré Gomes. “He does more of the at­tack­ing, I stay back most of the time and con­cen­trate on try­ing to win the ball to get moves started,” Gu­eye says. “I think it is a good bal­ance with An­dré, he is more of a for­ward player and I like to con­trol the game, know­ing when to go for­ward or stay.”

While Gu­eye has yet to taste vic­tory in a Mersey­side derby and his man­ager is about to sam­ple the oc­ca­sion for the fi rst time, Liver­pool can ex­pect a confi dent Ever­ton to try to ex­ploit the fact that their op­po­nents were in ac­tion in Europe in mid­week. Liver­pool’s three away de­feats in the Cham­pi­ons League have dented their hopes of reach­ing the knock­out stage, and in ad­di­tion to what is now a huge match against Napoli next week they have Manch­ester United a few days later, so it is pos­si­ble a fresh and or­gan­ised Ever­ton side could catch their op­po­nents with their mind else­where.

If not, the wait for an Anfi eld win will ex­tend to 20 years, but Gu­eye is sure his side are ready for the chal­lenge. “All good things start at the train­ing ground and that’s where we work hard,” he says. “Ev­ery man­ager has his own way to play and with Marco it is all about keep­ing the ball .

“We try to en­joy our foot­ball. It is not just the play­ers picked for the fi rst team be­cause the play­ers on the bench help us a lot. They train hard ev­ery week and don’t give up try­ing to get into the team and that’s why we are where we are in the league. We all try to help each other and at the mo­ment it is work­ing well.”

PAUL GREEN­WOOD/ BPI/ REX/ SHUTTERSTOCK

 ‘ I stay back most of the time and con­cen­trate on try­ing to win the ball to get moves started,’ says Ever­ton’s Idrissa Gu­eye

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