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Toffees can cause problems for Reds

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It feels like Everton have spent much of the winter trying to recover from the pain of their cruel 1-0 loss to Liverpool at Anfield in early December but they can ease some of their pain by avoiding defeat this weekend and putting a massive dent into the Reds' title challenge.

The narrative of Everton's season seemed to change when they lost to Liverpool in such bizarre fashion.

They were unbeaten in three games leading up to the contest and played with confidence and ambition – going toe-to-toe with Liverpool for much of the game and missing a golden chance when Andre Gomes's first-half header was superbly saved by Alisson.

It was probably as tough a match as Liverpool have had at Anfield this season and Jurgen Klopp's men may have to steel themselves for another difficult derby.

Everton had a 17-day break in February and must have put it to good use because they looked motivated and well organised when winning 3-0 at Cardiff on Tuesday.

It was a big improvement on the previous performance – a 1-0 loss at Watford – and rewarded some bold selections from manager Marco Silva, who handed rare starts to centre-back Phil Jagielka and midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin.

The result will have given the squad a much-needed confidence boost and Gylfi Sigurdsson will feel particularly pleased with himself after his two goals against the Bluebirds.

Silva is far from out of the woods and a heavy derby defeat would throw his future up in the air. But facing Liverpool may work in his favour because the home fans will be desperate to get behind the players.

Liverpool had the ideal preparation, romping to a 5-0 victory over Watford on Wednesday, and Klopp may have the option to revert to his first-choice front three with Roberto Firmino hoping to have fully recovered from a minor ankle injury.

But they haven't been playing with any great confidence on their travels since losing 2-1 at Manchester City in early January.

Premier League standings

Since then they lost 2-1 at Wolves in the FA Cup third round, won 1-0 at Brighton and played out scratchy goalless draws at West Ham and injury-hit Manchester United.

And they may struggle to play their free-flowing passing style of football in the white-hot atmosphere at Goodison.

Everton under Silva have been aiming to develop a more technical style of football, not too dissimilar to the brand created across Stanley Park.

But smart managers know when to put pragmatism above long-term planning and Silva's team selection at Cardiff was an indication that he is learning to avoid being too dogmatic.

He knows Everton are not at the stage where they can play Liverpool off the park but the Toffees can narrow the gap in class by feeding off the atmosphere and making life as difficult as possible for the opposition – as they did at Anfield three months ago.

Silva's side didn't get what they deserved on that occasion but they may have better luck this weekend.

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Match in Focus

15:00 TODAY SKY

Kazakhstan v Scotland

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Kazakhstan have conceded 89 goals in their last 40 qualification matches.
Expert verdict
Nearly 21 years have passed since the Tartan Army last followed Scotland to a major international tournament.However, there is a quiet confidence that the Scots can end that barren run. The Kazakhs are ranked 77 places below Scotland and have won only three of their last 40 major tournament qualifiers.