Liverpool played the biggest game of the season and one of the most important in recent years against Manchester City in the Champions League at Anfield on Wednesday. However, some fans would swap a win in that match for three points against Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday. Beating the team from up the road is more important than qualifying for the semi-finals of the Champions League. Second place is up for grabs but Everton are only playing for local pride.
Manchester United are second in the Premier League, two points ahead of Liverpool and with a game in hand. Tottenham are two points further back but they have played one less fixture than Liverpool. There is little practical difference between finishing second and third but the fourth qualifier has to play a knockout tie to get into the group stages. That means a match at the end of July which disrupts pre-season.
The derby match with Everton could be pivotal in deciding where Liverpool finish in the league and hence their Champions League involvement. A win would take them above United who play away at Manchester City later in the day. Everton are becalmed in mid-table safety, free from relegation issues but with no chance of qualifying for the Europa League. Liverpool have all the incentive and motivation and that will be crucial so they can beat their local rivals.
United fans are facing the nightmare scenario of City winning the league if they win this derby. They would be 19 points clear with six matches to go and on the basis of three points for a win the implications are obvious. From the start of the seaon City have never not looked like winning the league and United won’t stop them this late in the day. However, the visitors to the Etihad could delay the inevitable by avoiding defeat. A draw would leave the gap at 16 points and job not quite done.
If United finish second in the Premier League and win the FA Cup Jose Mourinho would feel its been a good season. However, he was recruited to make United competitive in the two competitions that matter most and that has not happened in more than one season. It feels like United must win the Premier League or Champions League next season or Mourinho would be gone. His reaction to the abject defeat to Sevilla in the Champions League was not that of a man in it for the long haul.
Just as some Liverpool fans would take beating Everton over a huge win against City United supporters would forgive Mourinho a lot if they beat City in this upcoming match. it’s a question of how much local pride can inspire a team to try their best when there is very little on the line. Other things being equal City would win this match so they should beat United and clinch a third Premier League title in six years.
Saturday is being promoted as a huge derby day double. There are similarities in both matches in that they bring together a side with mot much at stake and opponents with issues on the line. Motivation can see wins for Liverpool and Manchester City.