Former Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt has said he finds the high levels reached by the Reds and Premier League title rivals Manchester City "amazing".

Kuyt played for Liverpool between 2006 and 2012, winning the EFL Cup in his final season at Anfield.

However, having already secured the same trophy this season, Liverpool have three more titles in their sights as they look to complete an unprecedented quadruple.

Liverpool sealed a place in the FA Cup final against Chelsea after beating City 3-2 at Wembley last week, have a Champions League semi-final against Villarreal on the horizon, and sit just a point behind Pep Guardiola's team in the race for the Premier League title.

Speaking to Stats Perform, Kuyt praised the levels of both title rivals, saying: "There's something changing if you play an opponent more than two or three times in a season and that's happening with Liverpool and City now.

"It's very interesting because we have already seen two very good games between Liverpool and City. In my opinion, City was a little bit the better team in the Premier League match [a 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium] but obviously in the FA Cup semi-final, Liverpool showed what they are capable of.

"It's just amazing what a high level these kinds of games are because I didn't see better games than the Liverpool and City games this season."

The Dutchman scored 67 goals in 281 games for Liverpool in all competitions, and enjoyed a particularly strong record in Merseyside derbies, scoring five goals in 11 Premier League appearances against Everton.

Jurgen Klopp's side entertain Everton on Sunday, with the Toffees in the midst of a relegation fight, and Kuyt says the derby is on the minds of people in the city.

"You can already feel it the week before," he said. "So we are a couple of days before the derby game, and once I landed in Liverpool, when I came from Amsterdam this morning, people are already talking about the derby game and it's massive for the city.

"You've got families, one is for Liverpool, the other one is for Everton. So yeah, it's just a great game and a really important game.

"I used to play in these games. Thankfully, I won more than I lost but for Liverpool and the city, it's very important. Liverpool will win again on Sunday.

"I was used to playing these kinds of games in Holland with Feyenoord and Ajax, and when I came to Liverpool, this game together with the Man United game was one of the most important games of the season. I loved these kinds of games the most when everyone is fully up for it, so I really enjoyed it and I was happy to score important goals."

When asked for his favourite derby memory, Kuyt pointed to the game at Goodison Park in the 2007-08 season in which he scored two penalties, including one in second-half stoppage time to win it, though he was also perhaps fortunate to avoid a red card for a challenge on Phil Neville earlier in the contest.

"If I have to go back it's when I scored two penalties, and one in [injury] time," he said. "And somewhere in between I tried to kick somebody and thankfully I didn't get a red card. [It was a] special game for me and to celebrate the winning goal in [injury] time with the fans was something I'll never forget."

The records and statistics are there to be broken, so we are told, and never was that more true than on Everton's most recent trip to fierce rivals Liverpool in February 2021.

An early Richarlison strike and Gylfi Sigurdsson's late sealer from the penalty spot earned Everton a 2-0 win, snapping the Toffees' 22-year wait for victory at Anfield.

That success, coming on the back of a 20-game winless run away to Liverpool in the Premier League, gave Everton bragging rights and moved them level on points with the Reds.

Fourteen months on from that game, though, and the fortunes of the rival clubs could not be much different.

While Liverpool are still on track for an unprecedented quadruple of Premier League, FA Cup, EFL Cup and Champions League, relegation is a real possibility for Everton.

The stakes could not be much higher in this latest encounter at Anfield, then, in a contest that will have huge permutations at both ends of the division.


Liverpool targeting rare derby double

That aforementioned defeat in this corresponding fixture last season was the only time Liverpool have lost to Everton in their past 22 Premier League encounters.

The Reds eased to a 4-1 win when the sides last met four months ago, but only once in the past 10 seasons – in 2016-17 – have they completed the league double in this fixture.

While Everton have struggled for victories against their neighbours, they have at least managed to claim plenty of draws down the years.

Indeed, no Premier League fixture has finished level more often than this one, with the sides playing out 24 draws in total.

Red cards and late drama

The Merseyside derby is also out in front in another couple of categories, namely the most red cards issued, proving this game lives up to its reputation as being a fierce contest.

Twenty-two red cards have been dished out in 59 previous Premier League encounters, which is five more than any other fixture.

Liverpool versus Everton has also witnessed the most 90th-minute winners in the competition's history, with five goals being scored in added time at the end of a game.

They don't like Sundays

On the form book alone, Everton do not stand a chance this weekend. 

The Toffees have lost 10 of their last 11 away league games, including each of the last six, which is their worst-such run since going eight without a point in 1994.

Unsurprisingly, then, Everton have won fewer away points than any Premier League side this term with just six, whereas Liverpool's 42 home points is more than anyone else.

Yet Sunday may just be the best time for Frank Lampard's men to face the team from across Stanley Park.

Having won 14 straight home Premier League matches on that day of the week, Liverpool have since won just two of their last seven Sunday fixtures, losing two of those.

Salah out to shine

Amid ongoing questions over his future, Mohamed Salah returned to form by scoring his first goals in seven matches for Liverpool in the midweek win over Manchester United.

Everton need no telling of Salah's eye for goal as the Egypt international was on target twice in December's reverse fixture, with Jordan Henderson and Diogo Jota also netting.

Salah is now out to become the first Liverpool player since Dick Forshaw in 1925-26 to score multiple goals in both league meetings with Everton in a single campaign.

All eyes may be on Salah, but back-up striker Divock Origi has also inflicted his fair share of pain on Everton.

Origi's five Premier League goals against Everton are the most he has managed against a single side, and three of those have proved to be the winning strike.

Jurgen Klopp declared "thank God these people don't make decisions" when asked if in-form Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara had won over his doubters.

Thiago arrived from Bayern Munich ahead of the 2020-21 season with many pundits questioning whether he would slow down Liverpool's high-octane game and if he could adapt to the rigours of the Premier League.

A maiden campaign disrupted by injury, and one that saw depleted Liverpool scramble to secure Champions League football, may have given rise to those who hold such a viewpoint.

But it always looked a sketchy opinion at best and Thiago is sparkling in a Reds side who still hold aspirations of a sensational quadruple.

Having dominated Manchester City in last week's FA Cup semi-final with his exquisite range of passing, the Spain international repeated the trick in a 4-0 dismantling of rivals Manchester United in midweek.

For Liverpool boss Klopp there was never any doubt about the qualities Thiago would bring to his midfield.

"People questioned if he suits us? Thank God these people don't make decisions," Klopp said ahead of Sunday's Merseyside derby against Everton.

"If a player calms games down in moments, it's just of course nothing we thought. Thiago wanted to join us and he knew how we play. He thinks a lot about football.

"I don't like to talk too much about one player. Not that he doesn't deserve it but I leave this room and I can hear that such and such a player is injured, so let's just carry on."

Liverpool have already secured the EFL Cup this season, are in the final of the FA Cup, have a semi-final against Villarreal in the Champions League on the horizon, and trail City by a solitary point in a thrilling title race.

Klopp concedes such pressure is not always the most enjoyable experience for this star-studded squad.

"[They don't enjoy it] all the time, but a lot. It's an incredibly tough situation and we play pretty much all the time," he added.

"We love the situation we are in. You cannot plan being in everything. We won one competition, that's great, but there are still three more competitions to go.

"We are looking forward to everything that is coming up."

While the red side of Merseyside is rocking, Everton are in a perilous position.

The Toffees are just a point above the drop zone after Burnley defeated Southampton on Thursday, albeit with a game in hand, and are in a desperate situation as the season draws to a close.

Klopp hopes Frank Lampard's side can find a way to stave off the drop.

"Of course [I would miss playing Everton]," he said.

"Playing United the other night makes it different, usually the full week before you play Everton there are full talks about the derby."

Merseyside Police are investigating an incident involving Cristiano Ronaldo after Manchester United's Premier League defeat at Everton on Saturday.

A video emerged on social media of United forward Ronaldo appearing to smash a fan's phone as he left the field following the game at Goodison Park.

The Portugal forward issued an apology on Instagram after the Red Devils were consigned to a 1-0 defeat.

Allegations of assault were made against Ronaldo and Merseyside Police are looking into the incident.

A widely released statement from Merseyside Police said: "We can confirm that we are liaising with Manchester United Football Club and Everton FC following reports of an alleged assault at the Everton v Manchester United football match today (Saturday 9 April 2022) at Goodison. As players were leaving the pitch at 2.30pm it was reported that a boy was assaulted by one of the away team as they left the pitch.

"Inquiries are underway and officers are currently working with Everton Football club to review CCTV footage and are carrying out extensive witness enquiries to establish if an offence has taken place."

Five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo explained his actions and offer to host the fan at Old Trafford "as a sign of fair play and sportsmanship". 

"It's never easy to deal with emotions in difficult moments such as the one we are facing," Ronaldo wrote. 

"Nevertheless, we always have to be respectful, patient and set the example for all the youngsters who love the beautiful game. 

"I would like to apologise for my outburst and, if possible, I would like to invite this supporter to watch a game at Old Trafford as a sign of fair play and sportsmanship." 

Cristiano Ronaldo apologised after he appeared to smash a fan's phone following Manchester United's 1-0 loss at Everton on Saturday. 

Anthony Gordon's deflected first-half strike consigned United to a second straight Premier League away defeat for the first time since January 2020. 

It was a significant blow to the Red Devils' hopes of qualifying for the Champions League, with Tottenham's victory over Aston Villa later in the day leaving Ralf Rangnick's side six points adrift of the top four. 

Following the final whistle, a video emerged on social media which claimed to show Ronaldo breaking an Everton supporter's phone by throwing it into the floor. 

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner subsequently took to Instagram to explain his actions and offer to host the fan at Old Trafford "as a sign of fair play and sportsmanship". 

"It's never easy to deal with emotions in difficult moments such as the one we are facing," Ronaldo wrote. 

"Nevertheless, we always have to be respectful, patient and set the example for all the youngsters who love the beautiful game. 

"I would like to apologise for my outburst and, if possible, I would like to invite this supporter to watch a game at Old Trafford as a sign of fair play and sportsmanship." 

United have now triumphed in just eight of their 17 Premier League games under Rangnick, with the German's 47 per cent win ratio the club's worst under any manager in the competition. 

David de Gea issued a damning assessment of Manchester United's quality and acknowledged it will be "very difficult" for them to finish in the top four. 

United succumbed to a surprise 1-0 loss to relegation-threatened Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday, with Anthony Gordon's deflected strike proving to be the difference. 

Ralf Rangnick has now triumphed in just eight of his first 17 Premier League games as the Red Devils' boss, giving him a win percentage of 47% – the worst of any manager the club has had in the competition. 

It was United's eighth defeat of the season – only the eighth time they have lost that many games in a single campaign but the sixth since 2012-13. 

They could find themselves six points adrift of the top four by the end of the weekend, with De Gea admitting they lack the requisite quality to qualify for next season's Champions League. 

"We knew before today they were struggling and how difficult it was going to be," De Gea told BT Sport. 

"We don't score, we don't even create proper chances to score. I don't know what to say, to be honest. We're not good enough, that's for sure. It's going to be very difficult now to be in the top four. 

"Of course, it's not the perfect atmosphere. They were tired, they were nervous, but they keep going and keep fighting. They had more desire than us, which is not acceptable. It's very sad to lose today." 

Rangnick will move into a consulting role at Old Trafford at the conclusion of the season, with Ajax boss Erik ten Hag reported to be the frontrunner to take over. 

Mauricio Pochettino has also been linked with the role, but Rangnick does not believe the uncertainty can be used to excuse a dismal run of one win in seven in all competitions. 

"I don't think this should be an excuse. We are Manchester United. We have lots of international players. There shouldn't be an alibi," Rangnick said. 

"There will be a new manager next season. If this is announced now or in 10 days, it shouldn't have an impact." 

He added: "If you don't score a single goal in 95 minutes, we have to be disappointed. We had a good start and should have created more chances out of that domination. Then we concede a deflected shot and lost a bit of our composure. 

"The second half we were trying to add creativity with substitutions, but we didn't always take the right decision. 

"We had to do something. We needed a goal and we decided to bring on [Juan] Mata and more verticality with [Anthony] Elanga. 

"They were defending with their players in the last 35 minutes. We didn't find the right player at the right moment. We didn't have enough players in the box when we played crosses." 

Anthony Gordon scored the only goal as relegation-threatened Everton dented Manchester United's Champions League qualifying hopes with a 1-0 win at Goodison Park.

The Toffees boosted their Premier League survival bid with Gordon's deflected first-half strike sealing consecutive home victories for the first time since September.

United remain three points off the top four, although the deficit could be extended to six should either Arsenal or Tottenham win later today.

Meanwhile, Everton move four points clear of the relegation zone after only a third success in 10 league games under Frank Lampard, who was under pressure following the 3-2 loss to fellow strugglers Burnley on Wednesday.

Ralf Rangnick's side made a bright start as they sought consecutive away wins over Everton for the first time in the Premier League since September 2007.

Marcus Rashford was looking for his first goal since netting the winner against West Ham in January, and it took two brilliant saves from England team-mate Jordan Pickford to prevent him from ending his drought inside the opening quarter of an hour.

Despite having just 35 per cent of possession, it was the hosts who broke the deadlock in the 27th minute when Gordon's 20-yard strike deflected past David de Gea via Maguire.

De Gea came to the visitors' rescue later in the half with magnificent reflexes to tip Richarlison's deflected looping effort over the crossbar.

Everton continued to press for a second goal after the break, with Ben Godfrey heading over from a corner, while it took an important block from Victor Lindelof to deny Gordon from eight yards.

At the other end, Anthony Elanga fired over and Paul Pogba tested Pickford from distance but, despite dominating possession, United were unable to convert it into an equaliser.

Frank Lampard "lives and breathes" Everton as he reiterated his belief that the Toffees can clinch Premier League survival.

Everton led 2-1 in a crucial contest with fellow strugglers Burnley heading into the second half at Turf Moor on Wednesday, yet a familiar tale of costly defensive mistakes struck once more.

From having a first league away victory since August in their grasp, and a six-point cushion on the relegation zone, Everton succumbed to goals from Jay Rodriguez and Maxwel Cornet.

That leaves Lampard's team just a point above the 18th-placed Clarets ahead of Saturday's meeting with Manchester United at Goodison Park.

Everton have won just one of their last 13 Premier League meetings with United (D6 L6), beating them 4-0 just under three years ago during Marco Silva's tenure.

Silva is one of six permanent managers to have been hired by Everton's majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri since 2016, and that managerial upheaval has not helped as the Toffees' hopes of mounting a challenge for silverware and European qualification have been replaced, in the short term, by a desperate bid to maintain their top-flight status.

Everton have never been relegated from the competition and Lampard, who is the first manager to lose his first five away matches at a Premier League club since Jan Siewert at Huddersfield Town in 2019, is well aware of the need for results with nine games remaining.

"We have to lift ourselves. Sometimes a game coming quickly is good for that," Lampard told a news conference.

"In my relatively short managerial career, I probably spent 18 months at Chelsea two or three games from the sack. Maybe that's a symptom of football in the Premier League, that's pressure, no problem, I signed up for that.

"We're a huge club, people will talk about [my job]. We've got no right to not be fighting relegation, irrespective of history, but what I am is proud to manage here, proud to keep the history of this club going in a positive way.

"I came into a great club, a great squad of players, they're working well. The results are a turning point and I understand that. If we'd have won on Wednesday – seven-point buffer to Burnley, six to Watford, game in hand, everything feels great.

"If you don't, it flicks in a different direction. Everybody's working hard, the players, we just need those results.

"I understand. Fans have passion, they live and breathe the club. I do, I've been here five minutes in football terms, I live and breathe the club and I want us to stay in the league. I have to handle that, I have to do my job."

Key to Everton staying up may well be Dominic Calvert-Lewin. An injury ravaged season has resulted in just three goals, which came in the first three games.

Calvert-Lewin has returned to full fitness in recent weeks but has looked way off the pace, and managed just one attempt and one key pass in the loss at Burnley. Lampard, though, has full confidence in the England forward.

"I just give him complete support," Lampard said of Calvert-Lewin.

"Dominic now is reaching that fitness and the next step is can he contribute as well as he can, can he get the goals that we want from him? I know how much he wants to deliver, and I've got absolute confidence that that will come good in terms of goals for him."

Ralf Rangnick confirmed Cristiano Ronaldo will return against Everton on Saturday, while insisting Manchester United cannot afford to drop any more points in the top-four race.

United are languishing in seventh in the Premier League after limping to a 1-1 draw at home to Leicester City last Saturday, sitting three points behind fourth-placed Tottenham, who have played a game fewer.

Arsenal are level on points with their London rivals, having played two games fewer than United, whose 2021-22 hopes rely on Champions League qualification after failure in the cup competitions.

That has led to questions over the capabilities of Rangnick, the identity of his next permanent successor, and the future of numerous United stars, with Paul Pogba and Ronaldo both scrutinised.

The Portugal captain missed the Leicester game and Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher, joined by Wayne Rooney, labelled Ronaldo's return as a mistake.

The former Real Madrid man will hope to prove his doubters wrong when the Red Devils on Saturday head to Merseyside, where Rangnick reminded his team they cannot drop points if they want to qualify for UEFA's flagship club competition.

"Cristiano is back again. Luke [Shaw] is still injured. He will be out for the next two or three weeks," Rangnick told reporters at Friday's pre-match news conference.

"[Edinson] Cavani is still injured, [Raphael] Varane is still injured and the same is true with [Scott] McTominay I'm afraid."

Asked if the game was must win, he added: "That happens in football [big teams struggling], not only England but in other leagues. But for us again, it's about being aware about the current situation.

"We still have a chance to qualify for the Champions League, but in order to do that we need to win and we definitely need to win the game tomorrow.

"If you look at the current situation in the table, we can't afford to drop points anymore and I think everybody in the team and the squad is aware of that."

Rangnick has, even if unspectacularly, steadied the ship for United, with only Manchester City and Liverpool (one each) losing fewer Premier League games than United, who have been defeated just twice in 16 league games since the German's appointment in December.

United have won half of those top-flight games but Rangnick knows he must strike a balance between attack and defence in the coming weeks if his side are to compete.

"It's got to do with the kind of players we have available. As you know, we have quite a few strikers missing in the last couple of weeks and months," he continued on the make-up of his team.

"In the game against Leicester, on top of that, we had Ronaldo not available, that's one reason. The other reason is the focus. In the first couple of weeks, we put our focus on being more stable defensively and conceding not that many goals, which we did.

"At one stage, we also found out then that we needed a plan out of possession of the ball to create chances ourselves. Right now, it's about getting both parts together."

While Rangnick called on his side to construct a complete performance, he acknowledged he was pleased with some developments, but now he wants to see consistency.

"I was not surprised. I knew that from the start," Rangnick said of the quality at United. "When you see the whole process over the last four and a half months, I think we have developed the team in some areas, but as you've said, it's all about being consistent and consistency.

"This is what we have to start. We have to start tomorrow with the best possible performance."

Ajax's Erik ten Hag has reportedly agreed to talks with United to become their next permanent manager, with Paris Saint-Germain's Mauricio Pochettino also linked, but Rangnick refused to provide any insight on the next appointment as he looked ahead to his consultancy role when his short-term contract expires at the end of the season.

"From what I know, all the managers with whom the club have so far spoken are top managers, top coaches," he added. "If this includes Erik ten Hag, then it's also true with him. That's all I can say at this stage.

"As you know, we have agreed upon a consultancy contract as an advisor and we will speak about that in the next couple of weeks I'm pretty sure – at the latest, the end of the season. But again, my focus is on tomorrow."

After a number of false dawns since Alex Ferguson's retirement from coaching, Manchester United are reportedly looking to make a splash with Erik ten Hag.

West Ham's Declan Rice has emerged as one of Europe's premier defensive midfielders and is seen as a key piece in a potential rebuild.

According to reports, this off-season might be the time West Ham and Rice's representatives look to cash in.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED TO MAKE RECORD PLAY FOR RICE

Manchester United are ready to break their transfer record and make him a marquee signing under new boss Erik ten Hag, according to 90Min.

It is understood West Ham made an offer to extend Rice's contract last year, but ultimately, the Hammers would be unable to compete with likely wage offers elsewhere.

For Rice, United appear willing to break their transfer record set in 2016 for Paul Pogba, a midfielder who has never really found a set position or provided a return on sizeable investment.

They would face stiff competition from Manchester City and Chelsea, who are also keen on the 23-year-old England international.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United are preparing a deal to sign Leeds United and England midfielder Kalvin Phillips, per the Manchester Evening News.

Brazil are willing to offer Manchester City manager Josep Guardiola a substantial salary to follow on from Tite as the country's national team manager, according to Marca.

Everton boss Frank Lampard has the confidence of club owner Farhad Moshiri and the board, despite the Toffees' relegation battle, the Daily Mail reports.

– The Athletic has reported RB Leipzig and Croatia defender Josko Gvardiol has emerged as a target for Tottenham .

Manchester City remain the likely Premier League champions and are on course to pip weekend opponents Liverpool to the title as the race reaches its home straight.

The top two each have eight games remaining and the first comes on Sunday when they go head-to-head at the Etihad Stadium in what many are billing a title decider.

That is hyperbole of course, but for City it is the last time they will face a team currently in the top five, so by that logical reasoning it is the game where they are most likely to slip up.

Arsenal are the team likeliest to snatch fourth place and a Champions League ticket for next season, while at the foot of the table it is almost too close to call between Everton and Burnley for the third relegation place, with Leeds United now standing just a 12.2 per cent chance of sliding down to the Championship.

Stats Perform AI analysis has given us a strong sense of how the standings might look come the season's final whistle on Sunday, May 22, but the figures also show us there remains plenty to play for.

PEP TO WIN THE TITLE BATTLE AGAIN?

Pep Guardiola's City head into the crucial contest with a one-point advantage over a Liverpool side who have been closing the gap since trailing by 14 points on January 15, albeit with Jurgen Klopp's Reds having played two fewer games at that time.

It is clear this remains a title race that could yet go either way, but City stand a 65.6 per cent chance of carrying off the trophy for a second season in a row, with Liverpool, their lone rivals for silverware, having a 34.4 per cent opportunity.

Diego Simeone described City as "an extraordinary rival" after Atletico Madrid's 1-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday, and the second leg of that Champions League tie follows three days after the Liverpool game.

City's Premier League opponents for the remainder of the campaign will then be, in order: Brighton (home), Watford (home), Leeds United (away), Newcastle United (home), West Ham (away) and Aston Villa (home), with a trip to Wolves also to be arranged for a date to be confirmed.

Liverpool, also with Champions League commitments and an FA Cup semi-final against City to come, have what looks a more daunting Premier League run-in after this weekend, beginning with two huge Anfield games: Manchester United (home), Everton (home), Newcastle (away), Tottenham (home), Aston Villa (away), Southampton (away), Wolves (home).

They are 64.7 per cent likely to finish as runners-up, the Stats Perform prediction shows, and 0.9 per cent likely to be caught by Chelsea for second place. City are 0.3 per cent likely to throw it away and finish third. Now that would be some story.

Of all teams in the top flight, third-placed Chelsea are the most likely to finish in their current position. That is calculated as a 94.5 per cent probability.

GO FOURTH AND PROSPER?

The last Champions League qualifying berth is the prize that looks to be a slug-off between north London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal, who will meet in a May 12 derby.

Both sit on 54 points heading into this weekend, with Tottenham fourth for now but Arsenal having played one fewer game.

Momentum could change considerably, but for now Arsenal are predicted to have a 59.1 per cent chance of taking fourth spot, with Tottenham given a 31.9 per cent shot (50.8 per cent to be fifth).

Who else might take fourth and secure the riches that come with Champions League involvement? Well, Chelsea are reckoned to have a 4.0 per cent prospect of slipping there (and a 0.3 per cent chance of nose-diving to fifth), while Manchester United are three points adrift of Spurs and the Gunners, sitting in seventh ahead of a weekend trip to struggling Everton, and are given a 4.2 per cent hope of finishing so high.

That would be a massive boost to United's next boss, but it remains a slim hope. In fact, United's most likely finishing position, according to the predictor, is sixth place (46.1 per cent).

Former Red Devils boss David Moyes has probably seen his West Ham side's hopes of a top-four finish slip away. The Hammers are also just three points behind Tottenham and Arsenal but have played more games than both and are given a trifling 0.7 per cent chance of coming home fourth.

GOING DOWN WITH THE NORWICH?

The Canaries of Norwich are so far down the relegation pit of despair they can surely smell Championship gas. They stand a 1.3 per chance of survival, and are 81.3 per cent likely to finish rock bottom.

Second-bottom Watford are given an 18 per cent chance of staying up by the predictor, and home games against Leeds, Brentford, Burnley, Everton and Leicester City mean that door to survival should be considered just slightly ajar.

Leeds could yet plummet, but if Norwich and Watford are the likeliest two sides to exit the Premier League, then Burnley and Everton are the two most obviously jostling to avoid joining them.

For now, after a bruising 3-2 defeat at Burnley on Wednesday, Everton are rated 49.4 per cent shots to finish inside the bottom three, compared to 53.2 per cent for Sean Dyche's Clarets.

It is knife-edge stuff, hardly the end of the table where Frank Lampard is at his most comfortable.

Come the final day, Lampard's Everton might need something from a trip to Arsenal, who in turn might need points in that fourth-place battle.

HOW THE NUMBERS ARE WORKED OUT

Stats Perform's League Prediction model simulates the outcomes of the remaining matches to estimate the likelihood of teams finishing in each position.

The model estimates the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) from the latest available betting market odds data or, when not available, by using an internal win probability model that is powered by historical team strengths.

Based on these probabilities, the results of the remaining matches can be simulated. The outcome of the season is simulated 10,000 separate times in order to estimate the likelihood of each team finishing in each league position.

Neville Southall insists Jordan Pickford is not to blame for Everton's woes and believes he is rightfully England's first-choice goalkeeper.

Pickford captained Everton as Frank Lampard's team capitulated to another dismal away defeat on Wednesday, this time to relegation rivals Burnley.

Two penalties from Richarlison had put Everton 2-1 up at Turf Moor heading into half-time yet Jay Rodriguez and Maxwel Cornet struck to seal a 3-2 victory for Burnley that takes the Clarets to within a point of Lampard's side, who sit 17th with nine games remaining.

Pickford was hardly at fault for any of Burnley's goals and has been a consistent performer for Everton despite their torrid form.

The 28-year-old's place as England number one has been called into question this term, due in large part to Aaron Ramsdale's strong form for Arsenal, though Gareth Southgate has stood by Pickford, who has played a pivotal role in the Three Lions reaching a World Cup semi-final and the final of Euro 2020.

Asked about Pickford by Sky Sports, Everton great Southall, who was their goalkeeper throughout the club's successful spell in the 1980s, said: "Confidence plays a part in it. Jordan Pickford's done nothing wrong this season.

"Unfortunately at the moment, we've got Aaron Ramsdale at Arsenal and traditionally most of the media want somebody to play [for England] from a London club.

"So he's always going to be under more scrutiny because he's playing for a club up north. I truly believe there's been a witch hunt against him through the media at times and I think it's just silly.

"He's a decent goalkeeper, playing for England. Is he going to make mistakes? Of course he is, because he's human."

Southall also believes fans and pundits have to be more aware of the potential damage that being highly critical of players can do to their mental wellbeing.

"We've got to think about what we say to these players," he continued. "Telling them all the time that they can't do stuff. 

"We should start saying that they can do it. They don't know what damage they're doing. You're entitled to an opinion but some of the language I think has been over the top and it can affect some of the players. For me it's about looking after the players' welfare."

Everton's situation makes for grim reading. Lampard has lost all five of his Premier League away games in charge of the club – he is the first manager to lose his first five away matches at a Premier League side since Jan Siewert at Huddersfield Town in 2019, who lost his first seven.

Southall, though, has put the onus on the players to step up after mistakes from Ben Godfrey and Jonjoe Kenny proved costly at Turf Moor.

"I wouldn't say any, to be fair," Southall said when asked how much responsibility fell on Lampard's shoulders.

"Whoever he puts out it's up to them to do the job. It's all about the players on the pitch. The players have to emulate the fans, passion, expression, desire and if they show them things I think we'll get results."

Everton face Manchester United at Goodison Park on Saturday.

Dele Alli must power through the mental barrier to rediscover his form for Everton otherwise his wasted potential will be a "tragedy", according to Toffees great Neville Southall.

England international Alli ended a seven-year spell with Tottenham to move to Goodison Park in January, with the midfielder signing a two-and-a-half-year deal in what was reported as an initial free transfer.

Everton will reportedly be obliged to pay £10million for the midfielder after he makes 20 appearances and subsequent performance-based add-ons may take the eventual figure as high as £40m.

The 25-year-old is yet to find his feet on Merseyside, while a torrid run of form has left Everton just one point above the relegation zone after earning only 12 points since the start of October.

However, former Toffees goalkeeper Southall told Sky Sports News on Monday how talented Alli could be if Frank Lampard can help him regain his confidence.

"It's difficult. He's obviously not ready. There's something in his head that he can't get through the barrier, that means he can't get on the pitch or there's something missing at the moment," he said of Alli.

"It takes some people a long time. If Dele Alli gets back to being Dele Alli, he'll be a bargain. If Dele Alli doesn't come back, it'll be a tragedy. It'll be a tragedy for the lad, and that's all I'm concerned about, is that he finds himself and his happiness and that will show on the pitch.

"At the moment he looks reasonably happy but he's not played for such a long time, it's a difficult choice for Frank Lampard, does he put him in, risk an injury, is he 100 per cent fit?

"He's certainly not match fit, so for me it's about maybe not using him and getting him ready for next season, give him a break from the pressure, and he comes back and is what he is because everyone needs Dele Alli when he's at it."

Alli is yet to start for his new club in the Premier League, making six appearances as a substitute for his 169 minutes, while he does not have a goal or assist to his name.

He has created five chances this season for Everton from his limited opportunities on the pitch, which is in stark contrast to his best seasons at Spurs.

Alli's best campaign in north London came in 2016-17, when he scored 22 goals in 50 appearances across all competitions, averaging a goal every 182 minutes. He followed that up with 29 direct goal involvements (14 goals, 15 assists) in the 2017-18 campaign.

That ensured a prominent role for Alli at the 2018 World Cup, where England reached the semi-finals, and former manager Mauricio Pochettino went as far as describing him as the best young player in the world.

Lampard will be hoping he can tap into that potential as Everton battle the drop, with their next fixture coming at home to Manchester United on Saturday.

Frank Lampard is finding it tough going but should be able to keep Everton in the Premier League, according to former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Since his appointment at the end of January, Lampard has lost seven of nine league games with the Toffees, a sticky start to his assignment at Goodison Park.

The poor run has continued a trend that began under predecessor Rafael Benitez, who got a tune out of the squad in the early weeks of the season before Everton hit bum note after bum note.

It means that Everton could be relegated for the first time in the Premier League era, given they sit just one point above third-bottom Burnley going into their final nine games of the season.

They have Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea coming up in the next five games, along with two matches against Leicester City, and Everton appear to have only downwards momentum for now.

Eriksson had Lampard as a key figure in his England teams for Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup, and got to know the man as well as the player.

And while the veteran Swede has not been convinced by every step Lampard has taken so far in his coaching career, notably during his time at Chelsea, he can see the 43-year-old guiding Everton to safety.

"Lampard got tough and strange when he had Chelsea. And I think maybe too early he took one of the biggest teams in Premier League and in Europe," Eriksson said. "Because it's not easy to come straight from a player to make a coach. Especially in the club you've been playing in, so I felt sorry for him.

"And now Everton, they're fighting, but Everton will stay, they will not go down."

Eriksson was speaking to Stats Perform ahead of Everton's defeat at Burnley on Wednesday evening, when a 3-2 loss compounded the team's recent poor form.

Lampard has lost all five of his top-flight away games in charge of Everton, making him the first manager to lose his first five away matches at a Premier League club since Jan Siewert at Huddersfield Town in 2019, who lost his first seven.

Now 74, Eriksson in his England days strove to find a system in which Lampard and Steven Gerrard could thrive. It would be a struggle for subsequent England bosses too, with both players having such attacking instincts from central midfield that it led to many a selection conundrum. Eriksson would instruct one to sit back when the other went forward, in an effort to ensure gaps were not left for the opposition to exploit.

Few doubted the qualities of either man on the pitch, but they are having to prove themselves in a management capacity now, and many playing greats have failed to establish such careers.

With Gerrard at mid-table Aston Villa, after a successful spell in Rangers, it remains to be seen whether there is room in the Premier League for both men next season.

Eriksson said: "I'm very happy to see them both. And I could imagine that both of them would be coaches in the future when I had them as players because they are both extremely, extremely intelligent as football players and as human beings, but they know football.

"They were not one of those players just going out playing and saying, ‘Give me the ball’, or whatever it is. No, tactically, they were very, very strong.

"For me, they played together in the midfield. They could attack, both of them. They could defend, both of them. So, if one went the other one stayed, and it's a pleasure.

"I'm sure both of them will have good career. And you can almost take a bet that when [Jurgen] Klopp is finished at Liverpool who's going to have that job. I'm quite sure that Steven Gerrard will be a strong contender for that."

Burnley came from behind to keep their Premier League survival hopes alive on Wednesday, with a piece of Premier League history not enough for fellow strugglers Everton to avoid a 3-2 defeat at Turf Moor.

Maxwell Cornet's 85th-minute winner proved the difference, making this the first defeat for Everton from a winning position at half-time since December 2019.

Following Nathan Collins' opening goal, Richarlison's two penalties in the first 45 minutes also made for the first time in Premier League history an away team had scored two penalties in the opening period.

Burnley only took 12 minutes to equalise in the second half, however, after Charlie Taylor skipped past Jonjoe Kenny to provide the assist for Jay Rodriguez.

Cornet was on hand to score the late winner after Everton failed to clear their lines, bringing 18th-placed Burnley within a point of the Toffees and Premier League safety.

The win is only the fourth in the league for Sean Dyche's side this season, breaking a four-game losing streak.

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