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Liverpool v Everton- why the first Merseyside derby of the season is already a must win for both sides

Ask any fans of Liverpool and Everton and they will tell you that the Merseyside derby is a must win game no matter what the circumstances.

But as the two old rivals prepare to meet for the first time this season, the magnitude of this match for both sides has been intensified by less than satisfactory starts to the season.

Both are currently sitting in the bottom half of the Premier League, as they adjust to new signings and European football for the first time in several years.

Everton, despite an impressive display against Wolfsburg in their opening Europa League fixture last Thursday, have yet to win at Goodison in the Premier League, with a European hangover costing them in a 3-2 defeat to Crystal Palace on Sunday.

Liverpool didn't even have a good display in their first Champions League game for over four years, as they struggled to beat debutants Ludogrets 2-1 at Anfield. They too suffered a defeat at the hands of West Ham at the weekend.

The return of Champions League football to Anfield has been widely celebrated by the Kop faithful, but it has also presented them with their current problems, as they made a host of signings to build a competitive European squad.

They also their best player in Luis Suarez, something which also exasperated the need for new blood, in an effort to replace the 30+ goals he scored for them last year.

It turns out that scoring goals has, so far, not been an issue, having scored at least once in all their competitive fixtures this season. However, the influx of new players have left Liverpool with virtually an entirely new back four, and two full backs who have never tasted Premier League football.

Liverpool's title challenge last season wasn't built on defence, they conceded 50 goals after all, but they also scored on average two goals for each that they conceded.

They have already lost three games in the league this season, and with Suarez gone, Daniel Sturridge injured, and a host of new faces settling in at Anfield, the prospect of outscoring their opponents to the same extent seems unlikely.

Everton are having defensive concerns of their own, having shipped 13 goals in their opening 5 fixtures, and similarly again have not had much trouble finding the net themselves, having scored 11, second only to Chelsea on 16, six of which were past the Toffees.

Rather than losing their star striker in the summer, Everton forked out £28m to keep Romelu Lukaku at the club permanently, and he will Liverpool's main concern on Saturday.

Everton also stepped out of the European cold to return to the Europa League, and with the incentive of a Champions League place for the winner, their European priorities are arguably higher than Liverpool's, who must finish in the top four to keep their place in the competition.

The seriousness with which manager Roberto Martinez has taken the competition was clear when he named an unchanged squad to that which had beaten West Brom the previous Saturday.

Their emphatic 4-1 win over their German opponents sent out a clear message, but so did their loss to Palace after they made four changes to their previous XI the following Sunday, and the carry over to their 3-0 League Cup defeat to Swansea.

Spurs showed last season how badly a European hangover can affect a team's league ambitions, and that is a problem both Liverpool and Everton will need to be wary of.

The dynamic between the sides has undoubtedly shifted in recent years, from Liverpool the dominant force to both being rivals for European football.
The Merseyside derby is longer a rivalry based purely on locality, but akin to the rivalry any of the top clubs in the Premier League share. 

With the fall of Manchester United and Liverpool regaining a top four spot last season, the 'big four' are no longer set in stone, and Everton are undoubtedly hoping to crash the party in the not too distant future.

Which is why Saturday's derby, early in the season, with both sides yet to really settle in, takes on such importance. 

A loss for Liverpool would be their fourth of the season, for Everton, their third, and it would put them miles off the imperious pace that leaders Chelsea have already set.

It's a game that both teams need to win for a number of reasons, but lose it, and for one of those sides their need for any win at all will start to intensify.
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