Everton manager Roberto Martinez is upbeat ahead of Sunday’s Merseyside derby against Liverpool at Goodison Park.
The Toffees (3-3-1) have made a pretty good start to their league campaign, and Martinez insists his current squad is the strongest he has worked with since joining the club.
"I am delighted after five (transfer) windows," Martinez told his club’s official website. "There are many experienced players performing extremely well and then the amount of young talent, with big roles in the squad, is impressive.
"We’re pleased with the mentality that we’re showing. We always knew that we had the talent that we showed the season before last and, clearly, we wanted to get stronger from window to window and that’s been the case throughout."
Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Everton rallied from two goals down to win 3-2 at West Brom last Monday to extend their unbeaten run to four top-flight matches (2-2-0) and six across all competitions (4-2-0). Arouna Kone also netted at The Hawthorns.
The Toffees are fifth in the standings with 12 points from nine matches, and their only league loss was a 2-0 defeat to Manchester City back in August.
The Reds (3-2-2) will make the short trip across Liverpool’s famous Stanley Park to face their local rivals with most of the pre-match media attention targeted on manager Brendan Rodgers following his side’s stuttering start to the season.
Liverpool claimed their first Premier League win in five matches last weekend when they beat struggling Aston Villa 3-2 at home. Summer signing James Milner scored after just 66 seconds to put the Reds ahead before fit-again England striker Daniel Sturridge added two more goals to help secure a much-needed victory for Rodgers and his team, who are now ninth in the table on 11 points.
The Reds, however, failed to impress and build on that victory as they drew 1-1 with FC Sion in a Europa League Group B match at Anfield on Thursday. Adam Lallana gave the hosts a perfect start, scoring from close range on Divock Origi’s cross after just four minutes, but the Swiss side equalised almost immediately and held out to secure a valuable away point.
The 42-year-old Rodgers, who has repeatedly batted away speculation about his own future, insists he is focussed only on the match against Everton.
"These are fantastic games," Rodgers said at his pre-match press conference. "This is my fourth season of going to Goodison Park and we’ve played well there and been unfortunate not to come away with victories. We’ve never lost there in my time.
"Hopefully that continues. It’s a big game because it’s a derby and of course for us as Liverpool every game is a huge game. Every win gives you confidence but of course in this type of game it can be an extra bonus, especially away from home."
Everton defenders John Stones (knee) and Seamus Coleman (hamstring) could return to action, while midfielder Kevin Mirallas is still suspended.
Liverpool striker Christian Benteke faces a late test on a hamstring injury. Roberto Firmino, Jordan Henderson and Dejan Lovren all remain sidelined.
Both Merseyside derbies were draws last season, including a scoreless stalemate at Goodison Park in February. Everton were held to one shot on target in that match. The sides split the points at Anfield in September 2014 as Phil Jagielka scored a stunning stoppage-time equaliser to cancel out a 65th-minute strike by Steven Gerrard.
Everton have failed to win any of their past 10 meetings (0-6-4) with their Merseyside rivals in all competitions dating back to a 2-0 home win in October 2010.
Five of the past six top-flight meetings between the sides have been drawn, with Liverpool’s 4-0 rout at Anfield in January 2014 the lone victory for either side in the past three seasons.
The Toffees have won just one of their past 17 Premier League meetings (1-8-8) with Liverpool dating back to September 2006. That win was a 2-0 in October 2010 with Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta getting the goals.
Liverpool hold the all-time Premier League advantage over their Merseyside rivals, winning 19 times to Everton’s nine. There have been 18 draws in the 46 EPL meetings, with the Reds outscoring the Toffees 61-43.
Overall, this will be the 225th meeting in a derby that started in 1894, with Liverpool claiming 88 wins to Everton’s 66, and the teams have played to 70 draws.