Coral’s Merseyside XI: Everton and Liverpool united
Liverpool. The city where you’ll never walk alone, but you may be divided on derby day. That time is now for the red and blue halves of Merseyside, and that got Coral’s football experts thinking.
Who would make an Everton and Liverpool combined XI? We’ve racked our brains to come up with an all-star side picked from players that are fit and doing well under talented young managers Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers. Here’s what we came up with:
Goalkeeper: Tim Howard
Although the Toffees defence in front of him has been worryingly porous, USA keeper Howard has continued to pull off fine saves to sometimes spare his teammate’s blushes. Victory over Wolfsburg in the Europa League was preserved thanks to several stops from the veteran between the sticks.
Right back: Seamus Coleman
Talk about energy to burn. Republic of Ireland defender Coleman is a fantastic outlet for Everton this term when fit. A feature of their play under Martinez has been one full back finding another, as Leighton Baines picked out his fellow flanker during that Wolfsburg win.
Centre back: John Stones
The common denominator in the Toffees becoming unstuck is Sylvain Distin’s ageing legs in defence. Stones, capped four times by England, should be used at centre half going forward by Martinez, though he operates at full back for his country and fills in for Coleman when the latter is absent.
Centre back: Martin Skrtel
Slovakia hard man Skrtel has been the best of a bad bunch for Liverpool at the back this term. Dejan Lovren’s big money move is yet to pay off, while Mamadou Sakho and Kolo Toure are really kept in reserve by Rodgers. Skrtel always carries a set piece threat.
Left back: Alberto Moreno
This Spain international signed in the summer from Sevilla is a real attacking outlet. Moreno even gives Jordi Alba and La Roja predecessor Joan Capdevila runs for their money. It’s been all-out charges down the left flank to solve what has been a problem position for Rodgers in recent times.
Central midfield: Jordan Henderson
Simply put, Henderson is the most-improved England player over the last couple of years. Deployed in a right-sided, box-to-box running role in the Reds’ engine room, he is finally delivering on the potential that Kenny Dalglish saw in him. Long may it continue.
Central midfield: Steven Gerrard
The true heartbeat of Liverpool is the ex-England captain. Rodgers rightly shrugged aside criticism of Kop idol Gerrard, though we could just as easily include the hugely-consistent James McCarthy of Everton in our all-star midfield.
Central midfield: Gareth Barry
An assured deep-lying left-footed presence, Barry showed Martinez he was worth signing permanently at Goodison Park on a three-year contract from Manchester City. It shouldn’t escape readers’ notice that we’ve picked an all-English midfield.
Right wing: Steven Naismith
Former Rangers forward Naismith has really grown in confidence at the Toffees since Martinez took charge. His fine form for them this term is one of the highlights on Merseyside, and Scotland boss Gordon Strachan will expect him to carry that over onto international duty.
Striker: Mario Balotelli
Why always me? Well Mario, as Romelu Lukaku and Daniel Sturridge have struggled for form and fitness respectively this term, and Luis Suarez was sold to Barcelona, the Merseyside X-factor comes from this firebrand Italian forward. You cannot take your eyes off Balotelli for a second.
Left wing: Raheem Sterling
This precocious teenage talent is reportedly attracting attention from Real Madrid. Might the Bernabeu big boys be eyeing him as the heir apparent to Cristiano Ronaldo’s throne? Sterling always causes problems for opposition defenders, whether he plays wide or off the front when Rodgers sets Liverpool up with a diamond.