Yes, there will be the usual ‘bragging rights’ to fight for, not to mention the significant matter of who finishes higher in the Premier League table when the points are finally totted up this month, but whatever the outcome for Liverpool and Everton at Anfield on Sunday, the bigger picture is fraught with uncertainty.
This is not to play down the 220th Merseyside derby: already five points ahead of their rivals across Stanley Park, with victory Everton would guarantee finishing above Liverpool for the second consecutive season – incredibly, the first time that will have happened since 1937, an astounding statistic when you think about some of the great title-winning teams the Toffees have had over the years.
But in reality, all eyes are on the summer for both clubs in what could be a close season of great upheaval. We know Jamie Carragher and Phil Neville will take to the field for their final Merseyside derby on Sunday, and the two club stalwarts will be difficult to replace in a summer that is bound to be busy with transfer activity at both clubs.
But the big question is will Sunday be the last time David Moyes takes charge of an Everton team at Anfield?
Jokes about Liverpool fans wishing it won’t be his last given his record there aside (more of which later), Moyes is out of contract in the summer and with talks not due to start on a potential new one until Everton’s last game of the season at Chelsea, the majority of Evertonians, and particularly Bill Kenwright, will be hoping the Scot doesn’t call time on his 11-year stint at Goodison.
Because it seems the club is at a dangerous crossroads and with a lack of investment and no new bids for the club seemingly forthcoming, the Blues can ill-afford to lose the manager who has moulded a team in his image and can boast eight top eight finishes during his time there, even if that major trophy still alludes him.
For Liverpool, there is no suggestion their manager is going anywhere (I’m ignoring those ludicrous reports about Brendan Rodgers being a Manchester City target) but the Reds have underachieved this season if they finish outside the top six, and the entire summer is almost certain to be dominated by the future of you-know-who.
But whether Luis Suarez is sold, and what Liverpool do with the proceeds, is a debate we can leave for another day. What we do know is that Suarez will be absent for a derby that has an end of era feel about it, and it is a match that looks like it has ‘draw’ written all over it.
The stalemate is 12/5 and that is the call over the 19/20 on Liverpool or the 14/5 about Everton as I can think or more reasons why each team won’t win rather than why they will.
Liverpool have taken up Wigan Athletic-like tendencies in that you never know what to expect. The latest example: Rodgers’ team win just one game in five and then, without their best player, go and hammer Newcastle 6-0. I just can’t work them out.
Nine of their 14 league wins have been by three or more goals, and they have won as many by four or more goals as they have by one. But for every mauling of Newcastle, there is the home defeat to Aston Villa, for every spanking of Norwich there is a dreadful defeat to Oldham in the FA Cup.
And I’m not prepared to take a chance on 19/20 against a team that have lost just half a dozen games all season. Only the Manchester clubs have lost fewer games than Everton’s six as Moyes has made his team a really tough one to beat.
But I just can’t be tempted by the 14/5 on Everton. The Blues have enjoyed a great season, especially if they hang on to sixth position, but they haven’t won enough games, especially on the road, to make that price a goer.
Everton have won just four of their 17 away games, keeping just three clean sheets (only four teams have kept fewer) and come into the match without a victory in six league games on the road.
And given Moyes’ record at Anfield, where he has never won in 12 games as Everton manager, you have to be swerving that price, especially when a draw would suit the Toffees, leaving them five clear of Liverpool with just two to play.
And given Everton’s ability to avoid defeat, you can’t be getting on Liverpool at such a short price and having picked up a draw at Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham, Moyes’ boys should be backed to do likewise at Anfield.
There isn’t much to choose between these two sides, as the 2-2 draw at Goodison in October proved, and another stalemate at 12/5 looks like the sensible play.