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Page last updated at 07:33 GMT, Friday, 15 October 2010 08:33 UK

Alan Hansen on the Merseyside derby

Tim Cahill and Jamie Carragher
Tim Cahill and Jamie Carragher have had many derby tussles

Barclays Premier League
Venue: Goodison Park Date: Sunday, 17 October Kick-off: 1330 BST
Coverage: BBC Sport website, BBC Radio 5 live, local radio & highlights on Match of the Day 2. Live on Sky Sports.

Alan Hansen
Alan Hansen
BBC Sport football expert

It is hard to remember when there was so much riding on the result of a Merseyside derby - it is vital for Everton, but if anything it is even more important for Liverpool.

Goodison Park will play host to a game that is almost unheard of in the history of these meetings, with Liverpool in the bottom three of the Premier League and Everton only one place above them.

If the two teams were struggling in mid-table mediocrity it would still be a passionate affair, but given the current positions of Everton and Liverpool you can take the amount of spice usually involved in these fixtures and multiply it tenfold.

Liverpool are in the relegation places, and with their fans having dished out plenty of stick to Everton for being in that drop zone in the past, you can guarantee it will be coming back the other way at Goodison. It is a mega, mega game.

From Liverpool's perspective, they are desperate for a result to get away from the bottom three and put Everton back in there. And while the league placings of both sides reflect a poor start to the season, I think they both represent differing cases.

Liverpool's desperate performance when they lost at home to Blackpool deserved the criticism it got. They have been poor this season, but Everton haven't.

If Liverpool lose it means there is absolutely no good news for players and management. It will not be doom and gloom on the playing side of things - it will be much, much darker than that

Alan Hansen

Everton played some terrific stuff and showed real character, grit and determination to come back from 3-1 down to draw with Manchester United. They were also impressive in their win at Birmingham City, so while I am not saying they are playing like a top six team, they are not playing like a bottom four team either.

This game offers hope for Liverpool though, because Everton have played badly against Liverpool in recent times - they seem to have a mental block about playing their counterparts from across Stanley Park.

They have very talented players, but a case in point was their 1-0 defeat against a Liverpool team reduced to 10 men for a large part of last season's game at Anfield. Everton were terrific before that game, not just in the way they played but in getting results, but I just could not believe how badly they played against Liverpool.

Roy Hodgson
Hodgson could be one derby win away from a change in fortunes

Everton were terrific after the Liverpool defeat as well, so the performance almost seemed psychological and Liverpool's good recent Premier League record at Goodison Park will give manager Roy Hodgson encouragement as he tries to turn things around. If you struggle against a team you remember it, and if you do well against a particular team you can feel almost invincible.

Hodgson, who will know a victory at Everton will increase his standing in the eyes of those Liverpool fans who remain unconvinced, must strike a careful balance in his team's approach.

Liverpool will be going from a game in which they were totally inept, an embarrassment and lacking passion and pride, to one that is highly charged. Hodgson must make sure his players are careful not to go from one extreme to the other and run the risk of ending up with nine men.

It has been a struggle to keep 22 players on the park in derbies in recent years and Hodgson, not to mention Everton manager David Moyes of course, will be keen to guard against this.

If Liverpool were in the top three and played like they did against Blackpool it would have been desperate. For them to play without any pride and passion in front of Anfield when they were in the bottom three was an embarrassment.


Liverpool's players must also resist the temptation to use the ownership saga as an excuse. I don't think it affects them on the pitch in any way, shape or form. I don't recall sitting in the dressing room after we had won honours at Liverpool and saying how great the owners of the club were. It is down to the players now.

If Liverpool win, it will lift some of the doom and gloom around Anfield and give everyone breathing space. They can try to get some momentum into their season before Chelsea come to Anfield.

If Liverpool lose it means there is absolutely no good news for players and management. It will not be doom and gloom on the playing side of things - it will be much, much darker than that.

Hodgson has been under the spotlight himself, and Roy is an experienced guy who knows it is a results-based business. You can't get away from results and the optimism of the days when Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres said they were staying at Liverpool and Joe Cole signed have now been overtaken by the disappointing events of the season.

Everton will make it tough for Liverpool. They have quality in their side and a top-class manager in Moyes

Alan Hansen

I was fortunate enough never to languish near the bottom with Liverpool, but I know when we had a bad run we all felt terrible. And people like Bob Paisley Joe Fagan and the staff made sure we felt terrible. Then they would say we just had to get out of it and we would roll our sleeves up and go out and battle to get out of the malaise. And this is what we did together as a team.

If you are looking for optimism for Liverpool, it is that record at Everton, and you would look to one man, the same man they have looked to for 10 years. Steven Gerrard.

He has to be played in a more positive role though. I was amazed to see him almost holding hands with the central defenders when Liverpool were chasing a winner at home to Sunderland and he was at it again when England drew against Montenegro.

Everton will make it tough for Liverpool though. They have quality in their side and a top-class manager in Moyes.

The stakes are always high in a Merseyside derby. And the result in this one is more important than any I can recall for a long time.

Alan Hansen was talking to BBC Sport's Phil McNulty

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see also
Everton 2-0 Liverpool
17 Oct 10 |  Premier League
Torres fit for Merseyside derby
14 Oct 10 |  Liverpool
Derby even more crucial - Baines
13 Oct 10 |  Everton
Relegation form worries Hodgson
04 Oct 10 |  Premier League
Liverpool 1-2 Blackpool
03 Oct 10 |  Premier League
Football on the BBC
11 Aug 10 |  Football


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