The 288th Merseyside derby is shaping up to be one of the most fascinating in recent years as surprise early Premier League leaders Everton welcome champions Liverpool to Goodison Park on Saturday lunchtime.
Jurgen Klopp's side make the short trip across Stanley Park looking to bounce back from their worst ever Premier League defeat, but they come up against an Everton side leading the way as the only team in the top flight to have won four from four so far this season.
It has been an anniversary-filled international break for Liverpool, who celebrated five years under Klopp last week and a decade of being owned by Fenway Sports Group on Thursday.
Saturday also happens to be a special occasion on two fronts, marking exactly five years to the day since Klopp took charge of his first match as Liverpool boss, and remarkably 10 years to the day since the Reds were last beaten by Everton.
It is one of those peculiar twists of fate which football occasionally throws up that the Merseyside rivals should meet on exactly the same date one decade on, and that Everton will go into the match about as optimistic of victory as they have been at any other time during those 10 years.
Indeed, all of the usual measures point towards an Everton win - form, league table and momentum are among the factors firmly in the home side's favour, which has very rarely been the case in the intervening decade.
Liverpool, as a club and a team, are undoubtedly in an immeasurably better position now than they were when they last lost the derby - they sat second from bottom of the table after that game - but the 7-2 humiliation they suffered at the hands of Aston Villa last time out saw them plunge to depths not even seen during the dark ages of Hicks and Gillett.
Panic will not be setting in quite yet, though; as long as Liverpool can make a swift return to winning ways then that result will go down as a freak aberration - an absurd and astonishing anomaly rather than an exposé of a glaring weakness for the champions and the beginning of their downfall.
In truth, it was probably somewhere between the two. The fact that Liverpool's defensive strategy from front to back relies on a certain degree of risk is not new information, but never before has it backfired quite so brutally.
The stats make for grim reading from a Liverpool perspective; it was the first time they have conceded seven goals in any game since April 1963, and the first time the reigning top-flight champions have shipped seven in a league game since September 1953.
There is no doubting that it ranks among the worst results in the club's long and illustrious history, and perhaps the most worrying aspect is that the scoreline did not flatter Villa either.
The Reds can bemoan some bad luck after conceding three goals via deflections, but it is no exaggeration to say that Villa could have - and probably should have - run into double figures.
Whether the international break came at a good time or a bad time for the champions remains to be seen, but Klopp will demand a response from his side regardless, most specifically in defence.
Only West Bromwich Albion have conceded more than Liverpool's 11 in their opening four games of the campaign - their most at this stage of a league season since 1937-38 and a tally it took them 13 matches to reach last term.
Away form will also be a growing concern with the champions having now lost four of their last eight Premier League games on the road - the same number of defeats as they had suffered in their previous 46 such outings.
Another loss on Saturday would remarkably condemn them to consecutive Premier League defeats for the very first time under Klopp, but they could hardly face a more difficult test at this time.
While Liverpool have one of the worst defensive records in the league, Everton are the joint-leading scorers; while Liverpool's recent away form is poor, Everton have lost just one of their 14 home games across all competitions under Carlo Ancelotti.
The omens certainly look good for the Toffees under their three-time Champions League-winning manager, having won their opening four league games for the first time since 1969-70 - a season which saw them go on to win the title.
Not since 1938-39 have Everton won their opening five league games of a season and, as fate would have it, their fifth game of that particular campaign saw them defeat the reigning top-flight champions.
You have to go back to 1894-95 - just two years after Liverpool were founded - for the last time Everton won their first eight games of a season across all competitions too, so their current run stands up against pretty much anything else in their history when it comes to fast starts.
The major question now is whether they have the prolonged consistency to mount a top-six or even top-four push this season.
Some have even suggested that, in a campaign which has already thrown up some barmy results, there could be an unexpected title winner, and Everton will consider themselves at the front of that particular queue at the moment.
The visit of Liverpool will be the stiffest test of their credentials yet, although they have already won at Tottenham Hotspur this season for their first victory over a 'big six' club since Ancelotti took over.
Perhaps the only concern for Everton right now will be a defensive record which has seen them fail to keep a clean sheet in their last five outings.
However, with such a free-scoring attack - spearheaded by the in-form Dominic Calvert-Lewin - Everton have not been made to pay for any defensive lapses so far this season, netting 24 goals in their seven outings.
The form of new signings James Rodriguez, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure has only added to the perfection of Everton's start, and all three of them have tasted victory over Liverpool more recently than Everton as a club have.
For Everton to sit top of the table heading into a league Merseyside derby is uncharted territory for all involved, though; that last happened in September 1989, when Liverpool went on to win 3-1 en route to winning the title.
Everton Premier League form: WWWW
Everton form (all competitions): WWWWWW
Liverpool Premier League form: WWWL
Liverpool form (all competitions): WWWWLL
Liverpool are not quite at full strength, though, and one of their absentees is a significant one with Alisson Becker still sidelined by the shoulder injury which ruled him out of the last two games before the break.
Adrian is once again expected to deputise despite his mistake for the opener against Villa and speculation that Liverpool could either bring in a new back-up keeper or promote Caoimhin Kelleher to second choice.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is Liverpool's only other confirmed absentee as he continues to recover from a knee problem.
Mohamed Salah will be looking to become the 17th different player to reach a century of goals for Liverpool, and the third-fastest behind Roger Hunt and Jack Parkinson, having raced to his 99 goals in just 158 games so far.
Calvert-Lewin is the goalscoring pace-setter at the moment, though; he is the top scorer in Europe's top five leagues with nine in six outings across all competitions - including two hat-tricks - and this weekend he could become the first player since Tommy Lawton in 1938-39 to score in each of Everton's first five league games of a season.
The striker continued his scoring form on his international debut for England during the break, while the time away from club football has also enabled a number of Everton players to return to fitness.
Both Mina's green light and Godfrey's signing are timely for an Everton side with plenty of defensive concerns, with Mason Holgate, Jarrad Branthwaite and Jonjoe Kenny among those sidelined for Ancelotti.
Ancelotti is also sweating over the fitness of Lucas Digne after he picked up a knee injury in France's win over Croatia on Wednesday, although he is expected to feature. Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Cenk Tosun remain long-term absentees.
Everton possible starting lineup:
Pickford; Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne; Gomes, Allan, Doucoure; Rodriguez, Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison
Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Adrian; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Firmino, Mane
Head To Head
The 10 years since Everton last won the Merseyside derby have seen 19 Premier League meetings and 22 across all competitions - Liverpool's joint-longest unbeaten run against any opponent in their history.
It has not all been Liverpool dominance in that time, though, with 11 of those 19 Premier League games ending as draws - including seven of the last eight at Goodison Park.
The last three of those Goodison Park showdowns have finished goalless, and another stalemate this weekend would set an unwanted record for the first specific fixture in English top-flight history to end 0-0 in four consecutive matches.
You have to go back to December 2016 for the last Merseyside derby goal at Goodison, and even that was a stoppage-time winner when Mane dramatically rescued the points for the Reds.
We say: Everton 1-1 Liverpool
Judged solely on this season's matches, this game appears to promise goals - there have been 39 in their combined eight outings so far in 2020-21.
However, that is rarely the case in these derbies, particularly at Goodison Park. Everton are flying while Liverpool will still be reeling, but there is no doubting the quality the visitors have at their disposal.
We can see the long derby drought ending, but only in terms of goals rather than an Everton victory as we expect Klopp to maintain his unbeaten record against the Toffees.
Top betting tipOur expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 2.5:data
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