Liverpool host Everton in this season's second edition of the Merseyside Derby, and this one is the most important clash between the rivals in years. Both teams are pushing for Champions League qualification, with Liverpool sitting in fourth place, and Everton not far out of contention in seventh, six points behind the Reds.
With Manchester United creeping up on Liverpool, just four points behind with two games in hand, Jurgen Klopp's men need a result to avoid the Red Devils catching up, and to keep pace with Manchester City and Tottenham ahead. Everton are even on points with Arsenal, and with the Gunners having two games in hand, Everton need a result from Liverpool. The stakes couldn't get much higher for this one, and Saturday's match is set up perfectly for fireworks.
Here are six questions ahead of this crucial Merseyside Derby:
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Can Liverpool's defense continue the good work?
Liverpool were one of the top eight's worst defenses all season, but of late they're starting to figure it out. They've conceded just four goals in their last six Premier League matches (including tilts against Tottenham, Manchester City and Arsenal). Against the threat of Everton, and especially Romelu Lukaku, they'll have to be at the top of their game. Can they stay organized and deal with Everton's attack?
Can Romelu Lukaku continue his lethal form?
Romelu Lukaku is the Premier League's top scorer, so it's a given that he's been absolutely lethal this season. He's probably the biggest reason Everton are even close to the hunt for a top four spot, and there's plenty of motivation for him to down Liverpool in this derby. The Reds' defense has been steadily improving, but that probably won't much matter to Lukaku.
Will Coutinho rediscover the magic?
2017 hasn't been great to Coutinho. He returned from a long injury layoff in January, but since then, hasn't looked nearly as hot as he did before going down with torn ankle ligaments in November. He has just one goal in this calendar year for Liverpool, but with Adam Lallana sidelined for the Reds, they need Coutinho to step up and start providing more of a spark. Will the Everton game be the one that sees Coutinho get the magic back?
This content is subject to copyright.
Who will win the midfield battle?
As always, midfield play will be key in this matchup, and the team that can control the middle of the park will have a solid shot at getting a positive result out of this one. With Lallana gone for Liverpool, they're missing a key creative component, and they'll need someone to step up.
Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum have been great in the center of the park for Liverpool, and Emre Can will likely be the man tapped in midfield once again. For Everton, it's up to the probable combination of Morgan Schneiderlin, breathrough sensation Idrissa 'Gana' Gueye, young Tom Davies and Ross Barkley. It's going to be a slog, but who comes out on top?
Copyright The Associated Press. All rights reserved.AP
Will Tom Davies continue to impress?
Someone is going to get the opportunity to step up and make themselves a Merseyside legend. Young Tom Davies has already made a name for himself for Everton, and looks set to get his first ever start in the Derby. He's looked increasingly impressive in Everton's midfield when given the chance, and there's no better opportunity to make himself a Blues legend than showing out against Liverpool.
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Can Everton stop Sadio Mane?
Sadio Mane has had an up-and-down 2017 since coming back from the Africa Cup of Nations in January. He struggled in Liverpool's last couple matches, but he's been perhaps the Reds' best player on the whole of the season. He really shows up for the big games though, and against Everton it's probably a safe bet to assume he'll play well. But can Everton stop him? That remains to be seen.