PREMIER LEAGUE

Smicer "can't see Liverpool losing Merseyside derby to Everton"

Vladimir Smicer feels the Premier League title is now beyond Liverpool but is confident they will avoid defeat in the Merseyside derby.

Liverpool losing Merseyside derby to Everton 'not possible', says Smicer

Liverpool losing the Merseyside derby at home to Everton on Saturday is "not possible", at least that's how former Red Vladimir Smicer sees it.

Jürgen Klopp's side defeated RB Leipzig 0-2 in the Champions League in midweek but are on a five-game winless run in the Premier League at Anfield, with each of their past three top-flight home matches ending in defeat.

Consecutive league defeats at Anfield

Liverpool's 68-game unbeaten home run in the Premier League came to an end with a 1-0 defeat to Burnley on 21 January, and they have since gone down to Brighton and Hove Albion and Manchester City on their own turf.

The only time the Reds have previously lost four straight home league fixtures was in 1923, and a defeat to Everton would see them become the first reigning top-flight champions to endure such a streak since the Toffees in the 1928-29 season. However, Smicer, a Champions League winner with Liverpool in 2005, does not think a derby defeat to Carlo Ancelotti's side is in the offing.

"It's unusual to see Liverpool losing three [Premier League home] games in a row, very unusual. Especially after the run they had last year and that they were unbeaten at Anfield for three years," Smicer told Stats Perform News courtesy of KIA. "It is unusual but we can see how difficult the Premier League is, it's tough. Sometimes it seems easy, but it's not. You must be good to [keep] winning games in the Premier League. Liverpool have been a little below their capacity in their last three games and that's why they lost. That's football and that's the Premier League. It's a tough competition. But I cannot see Liverpool lose the Merseyside derby. Not possible. It will not happen."

Fabinho, Jota and Milner ruled out

Liverpool are likely to have to deploy Jordan Henderson alongside Ozan Kabak in the centre of defence against the Toffees, with Fabinho ruled out by Klopp. The Brazilian midfielder has been primarily used at centre-back this season with Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip each sustaining long-term injuries.

Klopp conceded the title after the 3-1 reverse to Leicester City last week, with the Reds heading into this weekend sixth in the Premier League and 16 points adrift of leaders City. With fourth-placed Chelsea only two points ahead, though, Smicer feels a place in the top four is still well within reach.

"I definitely think they will make the top four. Yes, we have been hit by a lot of injuries, not only Virgil van Dijk which is the main one and a very important player," said Smicer. "In my eyes he's the best defender in the world, and he will [still] be hopefully when he's back. And we are missing him badly. Not only him but Gomez is injured, Matip has some injuries and then the team is playing without centre-backs. And then Fabinho and Jordan Henderson have to do the job because they are missing in the middle. So, with all the circumstances we are fighting against I think we are still in a good position to make the top four. Unfortunately playing for the title will be very difficult. We are still champions and the players will show it until the end of the season."

The Leicester defeat was Liverpool's third in succession in the Premier League. They have not lost four straight since December 2002, when Smicer was playing at Anfield under Gérard Houllier.