Coleman v Mane among the key Everton v Liverpool battles that could decide Merseyside Derby

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Liverpool enter Saturday’s Merseyside Derby off the back of a sensational Champions League victory over Manchester City while Everton lost last time out to Pep Guardiola’s men in the Premier League.

The Reds, who have doubt over Mohamed Salah after he hobbled off with a groin injury on Wednesday night at Anfield, could shuffle their pack for the short trip across Stanley Park with more than an eye on the return leg at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Sam Allardyce’s men have reached the coveted 40-point barrier in the league to all but confirm their top-flight status — and are now looking to kick on and try and catch Burnley in seventh.

If they are to do just that, a result against their neighbours is needs must — though history suggests the Blues will face a tough task to claim all three points.

Indeed, the Toffees have won just one of their last 22 league meetings with Liverpool. That victory back in October 2010 at Goodison is a long time ago now while Everton have been shown more red cards (14) in this fixture than any other match-up in Premier League history.

Ahead of the game and with Everton having virtually a full squad to choose from, we look at the key battles on the pitch.

Seamus Coleman v Sadio Mane

The Senegalese forward was instrumental in midweek, netting Liverpool’s third, and has fond memories of Goodison having scored a last-minute winner to sink the Blues in December 2016.

Mane has now hit the back of the net 16 times in all competitions this term — with that being his best return since his maiden 2014-15 campaign in English football. The 25-year-old, who is likely to start, has pace, trickery and a goal threat to cause plenty of problems to an Everton defence which has only had one clean sheet so far in 2018.

The former Southampton man is likely to shoulder plenty of the attacking burden for Jurgen Klopp’s men, with Republic of Ireland star Coleman being in his eye line.

Everton’s right-back made his long-awaited return from an horrific double leg-break in January and his showings have not only helped the team on the pitch, they have boosted morale around the club with much angst about Allardyce and his future.

You can expect wholehearted commitment from the 29-year-old, who has been clearly making up for lost time. But, he will need to be at his best defensively to stem the flow of Mane, that said, attack is sometimes the best form of defence and Coleman loves getting up the pitch. He’s averaged 2.3 dribbles per game since his return and many supporters want to see him take on the club’s captain’s armband from Phil Jagielka.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 04: Sadio Mane of Liverpool is challenged by Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Leg One match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield on April 4, 2018 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Mane ran Pep Guardiola’s men ragged at Anfield.

Wayne Rooney v Jordan Henderson

From a former England captain to the current one — two of the most experienced men on the pitch should lock horns during Saturday’s early kick-off. Boyhood blue Rooney scored his first derby goal against Liverpool in the 1-1 draw at Anfield last December — and admitted it was a bucket list moment — despite everything he achieved at Manchester United.

Whilst the 32-year-old has netted 10 league goals this term, his overall form and influence has been hit and miss. None more so than his contribution in the 3-1 home defeat against City. Having started, Rooney had just 14 touches of the ball and was hauled off on 59 minutes.

But, this is a game that means more than ever giving the local bragging rights on offer and you can be assured he has been knocking Allardyce’s office door all week to make sure he is starting. He is likely to play in one of two deep-lying midfield roles alongside the below-par Morgan Schneiderlin or Tom Davies, given Idrissa Gueye’s injury absence.

Rooney or any of the aforementioned names won’t have it easy though against a combative Henderson, fresh from his awe-inspiring display against City. The 27-year-old controlled the game alongside James Milner and will be leaving it all out there at Goodison especially as he is unavailable for the Champions League return leg after picking up a booking. With the attacking threat ahead of him, expect Henderson to come out on top in a key area which could help the Reds to all three points.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 31: Wayne Rooney of Everton battles with Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City during the Premier League match between Everton and Manchester City at Goodison Park on March 31, 2018 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images )

Rooney had a game to forget last weekend.

Cenk Tosun v Dejan Lovren

The jury is still out on the Turkish forward but what better way to truly endear yourself to Evertonians than by netting a Derby goal or indeed winner, a la Duncan Ferguson or Lee Carsley in years gone by. Before his low-key display in the home clash with City, in which he registered just one tame shot off target and had a poor pass completion rate of 57 per cent as he struggled to hold up the ball, the 26-year-old January acquisition had netted four goals in three games.

Allardyce has now realised Tosun needs support alongside him to thrive, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Theo Walcott and Oumar Niasse typically the options able to offer that and then extra supply line from the up and down Yannick Bolasie. Everton have had the fourth-lowest amount of shots on goal all season (302) and that has been a huge problem as the frontline seems to be on different wavelengths.

Worryingly for Everton, their inability to look threatening often enough — even at home in which they enjoy a good record — should make their strikeforce food and drink for Lovren, and Virgil van Dijk, if they play anywhere as near as good as they did on Wednesday. Klopp’s defence has been generally derided, and in some cases the criticism has been more than deserved, but there are signs the backline is coming together at the same time as blossoming duo Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold gain more big-game experience.

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