Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp hailed two-goal hero Mohamed Salah and "unplayable" Sadio Mane after the Reds routed crosstown rivals Everton 4-1 in the derby.

Salah bagged a brace as Liverpool crushed Everton in the Premier League to earn Merseyside bragging rights at Goodison Park on Wednesday.

Jordan Henderson and Salah struck inside the opening 20 minutes and while Demarai Gray pulled a goal back for Everton prior to half-time, Liverpool were in complete control thanks to Salah's second and Diogo Jota.

Salah has scored 13 Premier League goals this season, nine of which have come away from home – it is more than double the number of any other player so far, while the Egyptian star is the first Liverpool player to register a goal or assist in seven consecutive away appearances in the competition.

Liverpool's Salah has been directly involved in at least one goal in each of his last 12 Premier League appearances (13 goals, seven assists), the third player to achieve that feat after Stan Collymore (12, March - August 1995) and Jamie Vardy (15, August - December 2015).

Salah, meanwhile, became the first Liverpool player to score twice away at Everton in the derby since Fernando Torres in September 2008.

Klopp praised Salah, Mane and Jota afterwards as third-placed Liverpool stayed within two points of leaders Chelsea.

"Not only him, but of course him as well," Klopp told reporters when asked about Salah. "Scoring these two goals, the first one was a pass from Hendo [Jordan Henderson] and the next one... he put [Seamus] Coleman under pressure.

"We saw a similar situation in the Chelsea – [Manchester] United game; even Jorginho, one of the best in the world, under pressure and a high ball is really tricky. He went and put that away, absolutely great.

"Diogo's [Jota] goal, outstanding. The performance of all of the boys was absolutely outstanding. I thought Sadio [Mane] was in moments unplayable as well, so it was just a good performance."

Liverpool scored four goals in an away league match against Everton for the first time since a 5-0 win in November 1982 under Bob Paisley.

Klopp's Liverpool have scored at least twice in each of their last 18 games in all competitions, the new longest record in history by an English top-flight side.

Liverpool captain Henderson, meanwhile, became the first Liverpool player to score and assist at Goodison Park in the same Premier League game since Steven Gerrard in December 2005.

"Hendo was good, but with his skillset you should be good," added Klopp. "When you can train, when you can play, when you get rhythm and then you have the quality of Hendo, then you will play good football games.

"Tonight, I think it was for him as well the best performance at Goodison. Obviously since I'm at Liverpool we had to learn these kind of games. We had to learn to play at Old Trafford, we had to learn to play at Goodison, and tonight we showed that we made a big step in our development and that's really good.

"It doesn't mean anything for the future but it shows us that this is now our benchmark, that's what we have to reach now in each game when we play these kind of teams, because emotions are important in football. We are a very emotional football team but, first and foremost, you need the right mood and mindset. Yes, emotion [is] good but not the only important thing."

The Everton fans who had bravely bothered to stick around until full-time of Wednesday's derby-day surrender to Liverpool made their voices heard in no uncertain times.

"Sack the board" was the chant aimed in the direction of the directors' boxes, with chairman Bill Kenwright and director of football Marcel Brands bearing the brunt of the ire from the disgruntled Toffees faithful.

Conversely, there were plenty of songs of support for Everton boss Rafa Benitez – the only issue being they were songs of joy from a buoyant Liverpool away end keen to serenade their legendary former manager as his present employers were ruthlessly dismantled 4-1 at Goodison Park.

The exodus of home fans began from 20 minutes, by which time Reds captain Jordan Henderson and Mohamed Salah had put Liverpool 2-0 in front – the latter and Joel Matip having already passed up golden opportunities.

Those who stayed were offered brief hope of a recovery when Demarai Gray halved the deficit before the break, but Salah and the brilliant Diogo Jota offered a brutal reminder of the chasm that exists between Merseyside's heavyweights.

Cliche lovers never fail to remind us that the form book goes out the window in derby matches. But that fabled window was slammed shut for an Everton side now winless in eight top-flight matches, with six of those ending in defeat.

What is so maddening for the Blue half of the city is the predictability of it all. Everton's present predicament is the result of muddied thinking, a raft of managerial changes, and a baffling approach in the transfer market that has resulted in a disjointed and dispirited squad.

Benitez has to take his share of the blame, of course. Attempting a 4-4-2 against Liverpool's attacking juggernaut, allowing Salah and the rest of the Reds' devasting cast the freedom of Goodison Park, is a decision that ranks among the very worst of his illustrious career.

But the Spaniard's hands have been tied to an extent. Limited funds in the transfer market, the loss of star striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin to injury, and colossally dense thinking in the boardroom have all played a part in the Toffees' increasingly sticky situation.

Benitez's appointment was met with widespread despair given his association to the Reds, which included leading Liverpool to that famous Champions League comeback in Istanbul in 2005.

What will rankle even more for a despairing fanbase is the fact Everton's worryingly rapid fall is coinciding with a time where everything at Liverpool from boardroom to dugout is so frighteningly in sync.

Picking a title winner from Chelsea, Manchester City or Liverpool right now is a tricky task, and for the neutral long may this thrilling race continue.

But make no mistake about it, Jurgen Klopp and his marauding troops look bang up for the battle of regaining a trophy wrested back in style by Pep Guardiola's City last term.

In Salah they have a player who many would agree is the best in the world on current form and he has now been directly involved in at least one goal in each of his last 12 Premier League appearances (11 goals, seven assists) – the third player to achieve that feat after Stan Collymore (12) and Jamie Vardy (15).

The Egyptian's sensational form is in keeping with Liverpool's relentless assaults on their opponents. In this game, the Reds broke the all-time record for consecutive games of scoring two or more goals (18), and the 25 away goals they have scored in their first seven on the road has only been bettered twice (Sunderland, 27 in 1892-93, Manchester United, 26 in 1907-08).

Moreover, the 43 goals in 14 games they have scored is not only their most at this stage of a league season since 1895-96 (48 goals), it is 10 more than anyone else has managed so far (Chelsea - 33). It is also the first time Liverpool have scored four at Goodison since the famous 4-4 in 1991, Kenny Dalglish's last game of his first spell in charge, and the first time in the league since Ian Rush scored four in a 5-0 win in November 1982.

It was just over 13 months ago that Liverpool departed Goodison Park with a 2-2 draw and the loss of influential centre-back Virgil van Dijk to a serious knee injury after being clattered by Jordan Pickford.

It began a raft of injuries, particularly in defence, that ultimately derailed their title defence. But Van Dijk and his team-mates were all smiles on a night when the gulf between the Reds and the Blues, both on and off the pitch, was laid bare in such a devastating manner in front of the watching world.

Jurgen Klopp labelled Liverpool's 4-1 win at city rivals Everton as their best performance at Goodison Park in recent years after the Reds earned Merseyside bragging rights.

Jordan Henderson opened the scoring before assisting Mohamed Salah's opener as he became the first Liverpool captain since 2005 to lay on an assist and get on the scoresheet in a Premier League game at Everton's ground.

Salah, who has been directly involved in at least one goal in each of his last 12 top-flight fixtures, then added a second as he became the first Red to register a brace away in the Merseyside derby since September 2008.

Diogo Jota struck in the second half to cap off another productive outing, with Demarai Gray's first-half strike that initially halved the deficit proving irrelevant in a fruitless performance by Rafael Benitez's Everton on Wednesday.

Klopp, who lost his last Premier League game 2-0 against Everton, praised Liverpool's display as he revelled in the away performance.

"It was a really good game from my team, a really mature performance, grown-up performance, much better than in years before, especially at Goodison," Klopp told Amazon Prime Video post-match.

"We were much too open when we gave away the goal but it can happen when you are superior. We should have been one or two-nil up before we scored the first goal.

"We scored the goals at 2-0 and maybe then we were not that ruthless, we gave them so life back. I am not seeking for perfection, if it would be easy I know everyone could do it. The boys did well."

The former Borussia Dortmund head coach also indicated Salah, who has now scored 13 times in the league this season to top the charts, was frustrated at not recording a hat-trick in a dominant display.

"He [Salah] was angry after the game!," he added. "He wanted to score the third one. I don't take these things for granted. 

"His second goal, you have to force these kinds of mistakes. Mo put Coleman under pressure to win that ball and from then on it is a good chance he will score.

"We have momentum but it was by far the best performance since I've been at Liverpool at Goodison. Before the game people told me that in derbies form or shape doesn't count, I see it totally different."

Liverpool are third in the Premier League standings, two points behind leaders Chelsea after 14 matches.

Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah said he has "no comment" to coming seventh in the Ballon d'Or voting as he laughed off finishing low down the list.

The Egypt international was considered among the favourites to come out on top at Monday's ceremony in Paris on the back of another impressive year for Liverpool.

However, Salah finished below Cristiano Ronaldo, N'Golo Kante, Karim Benzema, Jorginho, Robert Lewandowski and record-extending seven-time winner Lionel Messi.

After scoring twice in Liverpool's 4-1 win against Everton on Wednesday, Salah was asked by Amazon Prime how he felt about finishing seventh in the standings.

Salah shook his head while laughing and said: "I have no comment".

Prolific forward Salah doubled Liverpool's lead after Jordan Henderson had opened the scoring at Goodison Park, before Demarai Gray pulled one back for Everton.

Salah's second and a thumping Diogo Jota strike sealed a third win in a row for the Reds, who remain within one point of Manchester City and two behind leaders Chelsea.

It is the first time Liverpool have scored four goals away to Everton in the league since a 5-0 victory in November 1982 and Salah was pleased with the performance.

"It's a great result. To come here, play good football and win the game is something positive," he said.

"The scoreline is great. We also scored five against Manchester [United] – hopefully we can continue like that."

Salah, who is the first Liverpool player to score twice away at Everton in the league since Fernando Torres in 2008, added: "Hopefully there are many more goals to come.

"My first target is to win something at the club – the Premier League, the Champions League... hopefully both."

Salah has now scored 13 Premier League goals this season, nine of which have come away from home – more than double the number of any other player.

He is also the first Liverpool player to register a goal or assist in seven consecutive away appearances in the competition.

The 34 goals Salah has scored in all competitions this calendar year is a tally bettered only by Benzema (35), Kylian Mbappe (37), Erling Haaland (38) and Lewandowski (53) among players from Europe's top five leagues.

Mohamed Salah scored twice as Liverpool thumped Merseyside rivals Everton 4-1 to make it three Premier League victories in a row and inflict further pressure on Toffees boss Rafael Benitez.

The Reds raced two goals in front inside 20 minutes in an away game against Everton for just the third time in the competition's history thanks to strikes from Jordan Henderson and Salah.

Demarai Gray pulled a goal back before half-time to improve the mood around the ground, which began emptying after the second of Liverpool's goals, but Salah gave Liverpool some breathing space with his second.

Diogo Jota blasted home a fourth to highlight the gulf between the clubs and add some gloss to a win that keeps Liverpool within one point of Manchester City and two behind leaders Chelsea, with both sides also victorious on Wednesday.

Salah twice went close and Joel Matip wasted a big chance as Liverpool made a fast start, but the visitors' pressure soon told as Henderson guided Andy Robertson's cutback past Jordan Pickford with a first-time shot.

That was Henderson's first Merseyside derby goal in his 18th appearance and he also set up Liverpool's second goal, the midfielder playing in Salah following a Ben Godfrey error for his team-mate to bend around Pickford from an angle.

Liverpool continued to dominate but were given something to think about when Gray took Richarlison's pass in his stride and slotted in Everton's first goal in a month with 38 minutes played.

That kept alive the prospect of a fifth successive league draw between the sides at Goodison, but Salah restored Liverpool's two-goal lead with another calm finish after Seamus Coleman failed to control a poor pass from Gray on halfway.

Jota brilliantly turned Allan and fired an unstoppable drive past Pickford to round off the scoring 11 minutes from time in a one-sided derby that will lead to more questions being asked of Liverpool legend Benitez.

Liverpool set another goalscoring record with their two first-half goals against Everton in Wednesday's Merseyside derby.

The Reds raced into a two-goal lead inside 19 minutes at Goodison Park thanks to strikes from Jordan Henderson and Mohamed Salah.

In doing so, Liverpool scored at least twice for the 18th match running in all competitions, a streak stretching back to August 28 when drawing 1-1 with Chelsea.

Sunderland previously held the record among English top-flight clubs with a run of two goals or more in 17 straight games in 1927.

With his well-taken strike, Salah has been directly involved in at least one goal in each of his past 12 Premier League appearances.

He is only the third player to do so in the competition after Stan Collymore (12 games) and Jamie Vardy (15).

Trent Alexander-Arnold has never experienced a more intense Premier League title race than the one this season despite only being 13 games into 2021-22.

Chelsea lead defending champions Manchester City by one point, with third-placed Liverpool just two off Thomas Tuchel's Champions League winners.

All three teams will be in action on Wednesday, with Chelsea at Watford and Manchester City visiting Aston Villa, while the Reds make the short trip to Everton for the Merseyside derby.

Liverpool may be unbeaten in their last 10 top-flight visits to Goodison Park, but Alexander-Arnold appreciates his side cannot afford to relinquish ground on the top two.

Asked whether he had experienced a more competitive title race, the right-back told Liverpool's website: "No, I wouldn't say so. It is intense. It's going to be a good season, I think everyone has got that feel for it. 

"The way the table is looking now as well, going into the Christmas period, it's as tight as it comes really: three teams, it's probably something we haven't seen over the last few years. It's going to be intense and we know that any slip-ups will be costly."

Everton won the last Premier League meeting between the local rivals, though the Toffees have not won back-to-back Merseyside derbies since 1984-85 and have come under fire recently after slipping to 14th with just 15 points.

Alexander-Arnold recognises Rafael Benitez's side will be looking for a response, but he believes Liverpool's dangerous frontline will be all Everton are thinking about ahead of the clash.

"They'll be looking to bounce back, they suffered a defeat that they probably won't be too happy with on the weekend, so they will probably have a little bit more motivation to bounce back and want to do it in front of the home fans," he added.

"But that's football, every team has those little bits of motivation – we are a top, top team so every team wants to beat us. 

"But I'm also sure they will be worried about what we can do going the other way. 

"The form that the front three are in at the minute is frightening; goals and the way they are contributing and linking up together, and the way the team is gelling at the minute is looking very good for us and I'm sure they will be watching our analysis with a little bit of fear in them."

Indeed, Jurgen Klopp's team have scored at least twice in their past 17 games across all competitions, the joint-longest such run in history by an English top-flight side.

The Reds have been inspired by Mohamed Salah's 11-goal haul in the league so far, while the Egypt international has managed a goal or an assist in each of his last six Premier League away games – no Liverpool player has ever managed that in seven successive matches on the road.

But Alexander-Arnold believes it is the group dynamic that is ensuring Liverpool keep pace with the early leaders.

"I think it's part of modern-day football, that rotation, and more 'squad' rather than just a team," he continued. "Injuries come, especially at this time of year they're very frequent, so it's important to have a strong squad. 

"I think we've got that, we've got players contributing with goals and assists and clean sheets. So it's vital to have that within the squad and whether you are starting or coming on, that you've got that confidence that you can contribute to the win."

Liverpool have two reunions with fan favourites coming up in the space of 10 days.

While Steven Gerrard will bring his Aston Villa team to Anfield on December 11, Liverpool first make the short trip to Goodison Park to face the manager under which they enjoyed their best spell of the 21st century prior to Jurgen Klopp's arrival.

Rafael Benitez was a contentious appointment, to say the least, when he replaced Carlo Ancelotti at Everton.

After a strong start to his tenure at Goodison Park, a combination of injuries to key players and questionable tactical decisions have left Benitez under pressure.

Everton are on a seven-match winless run in the league, their worst run since 2016, and a streak of just one victory in 10 matches across all competition. 

It does not look pretty, the mood around each club could hardly be more different, and the last thing Benitez needs is a reunion with a fanbase that once idolised him and may well be singing his name again on Wednesday.

Where did it all go wrong?

Benitez has inherited a mess and Everton's director of football Marcel Brands and majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri must face scrutiny. The Spaniard, however, must ultimately shoulder part of the blame for the current malaise.

Of Everton's Premier League managers, only Howard Kendall (in his ill-fated third spell at the club) and Walter Smith took fewer points than Benitez's tally of 15 across their first 13 league games.

Everton went unbeaten in their three league derbies under Ancelotti, albeit they did suffer a 1-0 loss to very much a second-string Liverpool side in the FA Cup in January 2020.

However, Ancelotti oversaw Everton's first derby victory since October 2010 when the Toffees beat Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield in February, ending a winless run at that ground stretching back to September 1999.

That win at an empty Anfield inflicted a fourth successive home league defeat on Liverpool for the first time since 1923 and left the Merseyside rivals level in the race for Champions League qualification.

Since then, Everton have won just nine of their 27 Premier League outings, losing 11, with Liverpool winning 17 of 26, only suffering three defeats. The Reds have scored 62 goals, 36 more than their city rivals, while only Chelsea's defence is stingier of sides to have been in the top tier for the entirety of that timeframe.

If Evertonians hoped a corner had been turned in February, Klopp's team have proved they are still worlds apart.

Similar derby records... differing approaches

Speaking of Klopp, he has won seven Merseyside derbies since joining Liverpool in 2015, drawing five and suffering that solitary defeat. 

Benitez will be the sixth Everton boss Klopp has faced, and the German holds an impressive record over his Liverpool predecessor, winning four of seven meetings, losing just once, when Napoli beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the 2013-14 Champions League group stage.

Liverpool also won their last three league games against Benitez's Newcastle by an aggregate score of 9-2. 

This game will take Klopp onto the same amount of Merseyside derbies that Benitez managed as Liverpool boss. The former Real Madrid coach oversaw 14 meetings with David Moyes' Everton, winning eight and losing only three times. The Toffees' failures in this fixture have not been limited to the past decade.

Across the last seven matches, Benitez's team rank 17th for possession (39.5 per cent), joint-18th for shots on target (21) and joint-20th for goals (four), albeit they have underperformed their expected goals (xG) value (7.58) – the absence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin has not helped this.

Liverpool, on the other hand, have scored a league-leading 24 times in that time. Their xG of 16.4 also tops the competition, though it does suggest their finishing is above the standard that would be expected based on the quality of the chances.

Their high press has been back at its best, with no team producing more high turnovers (sequences that start in open play and begin 40 metres or less from the opponent's goal) than the Reds' 145. Everton's 78 ranks above only Watford (74) and Tottenham (72).

Another concern for Benitez will be Everton's tally of 101 high turnovers against. This ranks 11th in the league, but an issue for the Toffees all season has been an inability to keep the ball for sustained spells, even if it has been their aim to counter-attack. Their number of sequences of 10+ passes stands at 63 (16th). Liverpool's total is 220, placing them behind only Manchester City (283).

Everton had just 22.7 per cent of the ball in their recent 3-0 defeat to Manchester City, allowing 17 shots. It is hard to imagine Wednesday's statistics turning out much differently.

Injuries giving Toffees the blues

Mohamed Salah came seventh in the Ballon d'Or voting but if he continues his current form into 2022 then he could be a shoo-in for next year's award. He has been sensational, scoring 17 times in 18 appearances across all competitions, and also leads the league in assists (eight). 

Salah scores every 92 minutes, on average, while Sadio Mane has bounced back from his struggles last season with seven league goals.

Mane has played in 14 derbies, contributing to seven goals, scoring five himself, while Salah has netted twice across five appearances against Everton.

While Liverpool's talismanic duo head into Wednesday's fixture in fine fettle, Everton are in the midst of an injury crisis that has exposed their weak squad.

Richarlison should return from suspension and Abdoulaye Doucoure played at Brentford, but Calvert-Lewin and Yerry Mina remain out.

Calvert-Lewin has been a huge miss but the influence of Doucoure and Mina should not be understated.

With the pair playing, Everton have won three of six league games, averaging 1.8 goals for and 1.3 goals against, picking up 1.8 points per game. Without at least one of them, Everton have won just one of seven and averaged 1.7 goals against and 0.7 goals for. Their points per game drops to 0.6.

Liverpool's last league win over Everton came on December 4, 2019, a 5-2 thrashing at Anfield marking the end of Marco Silva's tenure.

Eight of Liverpool's last nine top-tier trips to Goodison have finished level but, unless Benitez can pull off an unexpected result, his fate may be similar. 

Arsenal and Liverpool great Ray Kennedy has died at the age of 70.

Kennedy, whose death was announced on Tuesday, was a major figure in English football in the 1970s and 1980s as he won almost every trophy there was to win.

He played an integral role in the Gunners' domestic double-winning 1971 side and scored 71 goals in 212 games before his 1974 move to Merseyside.

At Liverpool, he was transformed from a forward into a midfielder, winning five league titles and three European Cups during a seven-and-a-half-year stay at Anfield.

Though his arrival was overshadowed by the departure of the Reds' greatest manager Bill Shankly, Kennedy managed 393 appearances for Liverpool and scored 72 times.

Later moves to Swansea City, Hartlepool and Cypriot outfit Pezoporikos followed for Kennedy, who also boasted 17 England caps and three international goals.

Health issues ultimately led to Kennedy being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in the mid-1980s.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Liverpool said: "We are mourning legendary former player Ray Kennedy, who has passed away at the age of 70.

"The thoughts of everybody at Liverpool Football Club are with Ray's family and friends at this sad and difficult time."

Arsenal said in a tribute: "For Arsenal fans fortunate enough to have witnessed Ray Kennedy in action, the image will remain of a teenage striking colossus, dominating opposition defences as his goals led the club to one of the game’s greatest achievements and something his name will always be associated with – the double.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Ray’s family and friends."

The Football Association issued its own salute to Kennedy via the England national team Twitter, saying: "We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Ray Kennedy at the age of 70. Ray won 17 caps for the Three Lions between 1976 and 1980, scoring three times. All of our thoughts go out to his family, friends and former clubs."

Liverpool have the class to "walk the game" when they tackle Everton in Wednesday's derby, and former Reds defender Stephen Warnock believes that would pile pressure on Rafael Benitez.

A series of worrying injuries have hampered Everton in recent weeks, and they will be without Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Yerry Mina and Tom Davies for this midweek tussle.

Warnock has sympathy for Benitez, whom he played under at Liverpool, but he feels the big game will only go one way unless Everton can raise their levels.

A run of seven games without a win in the Premier League, their longest such streak since 2016, has seen Everton plummet to 14th in the Premier League going into the midweek round of games.

As a former Liverpool boss, Benitez needed a strong start to earn the affections of those on the blue side of the city, and having seen his team lose their way after promising early signs, he can ill afford a bruising defeat to the Reds.

"Rafa's reign sort of started well, but then it's gone probably horribly wrong for him," Warnock told Stats Perform.

"But you have to look at injuries to key players – Dominic Calvert-Lewin being injured, Richarlison was out for a long time, [Abdoulaye] Doucoure [was] a huge, huge miss in the midfield.

"I look at Ben Godfrey and he's obviously suffered a little bit from long COVID. The effects of that have been tough on him.

"But when you look at Everton, if Everton went into the derby with their strongest team, I think it'd be a competitive game. But if you look at the teams on paper, Liverpool will walk the game, it'll be a comfortable game.

"I think Rafa needs a result in the game, because if he doesn't get then I think the fans could possibly start to turn on him a little bit."

Warnock made his Liverpool breakthrough in the 2004-05 season but missed out on Benitez's teams for the Champions League and League Cup finals in that season.

He considers Benitez a mastermind when it comes to creating a game plan, but not the ideal man for rallying players to the cause.

"Well, I don't think man-management is his biggest strength, if I am being completely honest," said former England international Warnock.

"Rafa is more of a tactical genius, if you like, he understands how to set teams up.

"You've got to understand that that's his strength, but he has to have people in and around him, who are good at man-management, understanding the players what their needs are.

"He's not the type of manager who's going to put an arm around you. He doesn't have that sort of that personality to do that. But if you want someone who's going to sort of be able to take a team forward tactically, then Rafa is your man."

Benitez knows the significance of Wednesday's game and has called on his players to generate a spicy atmosphere, the sort that can allow underdogs to overturn expectations.

In the 1980s, these were the dominant sides in English football, and although Liverpool remain serious silverware contenders, Warnock says the game remains a significant occasion in the city. 

"The Merseyside derby will always be more special to me, purely because I grew up a Liverpool fan. I understand what it means," he said.

"I come from a split household, where myself and my mum are Reds, and my dad and my brother are Blues, and that's the way it is quite a lot around Merseyside.

"But come derby day, it's changed a lot in the last sort of five or 10 years. It has got a little bit more hostile, it used to be a friendly derby, but now that's changed.

"And I love it. I love derby day. I think it's always a special occasion to play in those games, to be up the ground, to take it all in. Yeah, enjoyable games."

Rafael Benitez believes the Goodison Park support will be crucial when Everton host rivals Liverpool in the Merseyside derby.

The Toffees welcome rampant Liverpool having failed to win any of their last seven matches; their joint-third longest such run in the Premier League, and longest since 2016 under Roberto Martinez.

Everton sit 14th in the table having collected just 15 points, with only Howard Kendall (13) and Walter Smith (12) registering fewer than Benitez in their first 13 Premier League games in charge of the club.

The Spaniard, who was Liverpool boss between 2004 and 2010 and guided the Reds to Champions League glory in 2005, has also won only once in 10 league games against sides he has previously managed in the English top-flight, as he aims to guide Everton to a second successive top-flight Merseyside derby win for the first time since 1984-85.

Meanwhile, Liverpool arrive unbeaten in their last 10 away Premier League matches against the Toffees and Jurgen Klopp's side have scored at least twice in each of their last nine league games away from Anfield.

Although the form book does not favour Everton, Benitez insists that anything is possible with the Goodison faithful right behind the team. 

"A derby is a derby, everything can change," he told a news conference. "It depends on the atmosphere, how well we can do, and the connection with the fans. If we can create a good atmosphere, anything can happen.

"A derby is always special. Here, the passion is massive; we know it's really important for everyone. I want to win and do well, for us as a team it's important to bring back the confidence.

"The fans are intelligent, they know we need them. They're crucial and the main thing for us. I think they will realise how important they are for the players

"We have to stay focused, go back to the principle of defending as a unit. After, we try to play the best way possible on the ball, if we have to play counter-attack then do it."

Benitez's pleas may well fall on deaf ears, however. He was a contentious and, in some quarters, unpopular selection with the Everton fanbase, given his Liverpool connections.

Indeed, while a good start to the season allayed some of those concerns, injuries have hit Everton's squad hard and Benitez has so far struggled to fully adapt.

Should they fail to beat Liverpool, it will mean Everton have won just one game in 10 across all competitions, with that run including an EFL Cup exit at Queens Park Rangers and a humiliating 5-2 home defeat to Watford.

Everton will be able to welcome Richarlison back from suspension while Andre Gomes is available for the first time since September, but Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Yerry Mina remain sidelined.

Mohamed Salah was thrilled to emulate "legends in football" by winning the Golden Foot award, as he credited Didier Drogba for motivating him to break Premier League records.

Salah ranked seventh for the Ballon d'Or on Tuesday as Lionel Messi collected his record-extending seventh accolade.

However, the Egypt forward was named the Golden Foot winner on the same day, an award given to standout performers for their athletic achievements – both as individuals and team players – and personality.

The trophy, which was won by Cristiano Ronaldo in 2020 and Luka Modric the year before, is only given to active players aged 28 and above, while players can only claim the title once. The victor also leaves a permanent mould of their footprints on the 'Champions Promenade' on the Monaco seafront.

After triumphing among 10 nominees, which are chosen by a panel of international journalists before an online poll decides the winner, Salah expressed his delight following more individual success.

"It's great to win any award, but this one is special because a lot of legends in football have won it, so it's something special to win," Salah said after winning the award in Monte Carlo.

 

Salah sits top of the English top-flight scoring charts this term with 11 goals to his name, having also become the third-fastest player to 150 Premier League goal involvements with his assist for Diogo Jota in Saturday's 4-0 win over Southampton.

The Liverpool forward achieved the feat in just 171 games, with only Alan Shearer (148) and Thierry Henry (163) reaching the milestone in fewer appearances.

Salah, who now has 108 goals along with 42 assists, also previously surpassed Didier Drogba (104 goals) as the Premier League's top African goalscorer in the competition's history with his hat-trick in the 5-0 rout of Manchester United in October.

Asked about breaking yet another record and overtaking African legend Drogba, the 29-year-old responded: "Well, I'm always trying to find the motivation inside me, just to drive me to give my best. 

"I don't know exactly, but that was one of the motivations to break his record. He of course is a legend. We know each other, he is my friend. So, it was a motivation for me to break his record, which I did."

Liverpool cruised through their Champions League group after just four games and are third in the league, two points behind leaders Chelsea after 13 games.

Having already achieved Premier League success with the Reds in 2019-20 and continental joy with Jurgen Klopp's side the season before, Salah refused to pick which trophy he would prefer to win this term. 

Instead, he wants both.

"Well, I always say that I love always to win the Champions League," he added. The Premier League… I would pick both. I think hopefully we can do both again this season."

While the 29-year-old now dominates English and European football, he initially struggled during his time at Chelsea between 2014-16.

A subsequent move to Fiorentina on loan and then a permanent switch to Roma, following another season on loan there, shaped Salah's career and he appreciates the influence Serie A has had on his career.

"I think it's helped me a lot," he continued when asked about his experiences in Italy.

"When I was in Chelsea, I had to change my football, I had to change to the culture. I felt that I needed to change my football, so I went to Italy. I played good and that helped me to be where I am at the moment."

Jurgen Klopp has questioned what more Robert Lewandowski could have done to win the Ballon d'Or after the Bayern Munich striker missed out on the award.

Lionel Messi scooped the accolade for a seventh time on Monday, but many felt this would be Lewandowski's time to take the glory.

Klopp benefited from the brilliance of Lewandowski when both men were at Borussia Dortmund, with the Poland international scoring 103 goals before switching to Bayern.

At club level, Lewandowski has scored 53 goals already in 2021, with six assists taking him to 59 goal involvements, the most in Europe's top five leagues.

Messi sits fifth on that list (32 goals, 12 assists) but helped Argentina to win the Copa America, thereby winning one of the few trophies that had eluded him.

That likely tipped the vote his way, with Messi's form since leaving Barcelona to join Paris Saint-Germain in August having so far been sketchy by his mercurial standards.

Asked initially whether he was surprised there were six players who ranked higher than Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, Klopp said: "I was surprised to be honest, but it's not in my hands. If you think he should be higher up, then you'll have to convince your colleagues."

Then Klopp turned his focus to Lewandowski, a player he once described as the best he has ever coached. Lewandowski was second to Messi for the coveted Ballon d'Or, which is voted for by journalists from across the world.

The 33-year-old scored 41 Bundesliga goals last season, breaking a record for the most in the division that was previously held by Gerd Muller.

"I think that you always can give it to Lionel Messi for the career he has and the footballer he is, all these kinds of things, but if you don't give it to Robert Lewandowski this time then it's quite tricky to get it at all," said the Liverpool boss.

"And yes, Mo definitely should have been high up."

 

Lewandowski would also have been a frontrunner in 2020, only for organisers France Football to cancel the awards due to the impact of the COVID-19 enforced break in the football year.

He managed 57 goals involvements (45 goals, 12 assists) in 2020, which was 10 more than Cristiano Ronaldo (41 goals, 6 assists), who had the second-most in the elite leagues, and 12 ahead of Messi (26 goals, 19 assists).

Jurgen Klopp backed Virgil van Dijk to power through his return to Goodison Park with Liverpool but believes the Dutchman will have his emotions stirred.

Last season's Merseyside derby at Everton saw Van Dijk clattered early on by Jordan Pickford and hobble out of the game, suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury that ended his season in October.

The Dutch defender was sorely missed as Liverpool's Premier League title defence collapsed amid a drastic set of injuries that left Klopp struggling to piece together a backline at times.

Now he has Van Dijk back and close to as good as ever, with Liverpool in great shape as they prepare to face Everton, who are under the instruction of former Reds boss Rafael Benitez.

When asked about Van Dijk ahead of Wednesday's tussle with their struggling neighbours, Klopp suggested it would be naive to expect no reaction.

"We're all human beings, so it's probably difficult to ignore something like that," Klopp said.

"It was a situation that should not happen in football and doesn't happen very often. I can't remember one since then in any other game.

"Virgil is very experienced, and he has these situations constantly since he's been back where he's in challenges and has to be completely free of all things he could have in his mind because of one issue in his past.

"So slightly more different [against Everton] because it's in the same place, but apart from that it's just a football game again."

Van Dijk has been an ever-present for Liverpool in their 13 Premier League games so far this season, and in that time he has been dribbled past only once by an opponent. No defender with 10 or more appearances has bettered that, and Klopp has been reassured by his increasingly imposing form.

"He came back brilliant. People are really quick if something's not exactly like it was before to say 'he's not the same anymore' and stuff like this, and this is of course not right," Klopp said. "These kind of judgements make absolutely no sense because everybody needs time to get back.

"He had a full pre-season which is absolutely helpful. His comeback was absolutely brilliant since he came back, it's been really good.

"If some things are not exactly as they have been, it's only a matter of time because of his quality, there's no doubt about that."

The Liverpool manager said his team would need "a cool head" for the likely raucous atmosphere awaiting them.

"We are still an emotional team, but you have to use the emotion in the right way and that's the plan for tomorrow absolutely," Klopp said.

Everton won 2-0 at Anfield in their last Premier League game against Liverpool, ending a 20-game winless run against them in the competition. Wednesday's hosts have not won back-to-back league Merseyside derbies since beating Liverpool in both meetings in the 1984-85 campaign, with Everton then on their way to winning the First Division title.

Eight of the last nine Premier League derbies at Everton have finished level, including each of the last four in a row.

Liverpool can break a long-standing record on Wednesday, which is one of numerous incentives. Klopp's team have scored at least twice in each of their last 17 games in all competitions, the joint-longest such run in history by an English top-flight side, level with Sunderland in 1927.

Benitez will be out to prevent that happening, but his Everton side are in free-fall having lost five of their last six games.

Former Liverpool managers have lost 13 of their last 14 Premier League games against the Reds, with Brendan Rodgers' Leicester City the exception, winning 3-1 in February, with Van Dijk by then on the injured list.

Klopp does not entertain the theory that form goes out of the window for a derby.

"I think previous form matters," he said. "Especially when it's good."

Denis Zakaria looms as an attractive signing, with his contract due to expire.

The Borussia Monchengladbach star is not short of admirers.

Liverpool and Barcelona are reportedly vying for his signature.

 

TOP STORY – ZAKARIA TO LIVERPOOL OR BARCA?

Liverpool lead Barcelona in the pursuit to sign Borussia Monchengladbach star Denis Zakaria, according to El Nacional.

Zakaria is available on a free transfer at the end of the season and the Switzerland international has been heavily linked with Jose Mourinho's Roma.

He has also reportedly attracted interest from Manchester United and Manchester City, however, Premier League giants Liverpool and LaLiga powerhouse Barca are believed to be set to battle it out.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Anfield and Fichajes claims Liverpool have joined the race to prise Adama Traore from Wolves. Traore has also been linked with Barca and Juventus.

Paul Pogba is unlikely to sign a pre-contract agreement with a club abroad, says The Athletic. Pogba's United contract expires at the end of the season and Frenchman has been tipped to join either Real Madrid, Juve or Paris Saint-Germain.

- Premier League champions City are working to re-sign Riyad Mahrez, per The Sun. PSG are reportedly eyeing the Algeria international, who is contracted to City until 2023.

Newcastle United are set to make a move for Donny van de Beek, according to El Nacional. Van de Beek has found his chances limited at Manchester United and Newcastle are ready to pounce.

- After appointing Ralf Rangnick until the end of the season, The Times claims United's interim manager is targeting RB Leipzig midfielder Amadou Haidara.

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