By News Team
18th February 2021
As derby fever descends on Merseyside ahead of Liverpool versus Everton at Anfield on Saturday evening, former Reds striker Djibril Cisse spoke to William Hill to discuss his experience of the unique fixture.
The Frenchman counts himself lucky to have played in just one Merseyside derby, which ended 3-1 to Liverpool at Goodison Park in 2005 and saw him clinch the victory with the third goal.
So, it’s an easy answer for him when he’s asked to pick his favourite derby memory.
“The one I scored in, and it was the only one I played in. It was at Goodison Park, so it was great to score and win for our fans,” he said.
“I was really happy as it was important to put my name on the list of Merseyside derby scorers. It’s always good for a striker to say they’ve done that.
“It was the third goal to improve our lead, and I celebrated right next to the Liverpool fans, so the atmosphere was very good.”
Cisse also believes that the Merseyside derby is different to any other derby, mainly due to the relationship between both sets of fans and the people in the city.
He said: “It’s a special derby, and it’s friendly. It’s a good, healthy rivalry. The two stadiums are so close, and the two clubs are so close together, which makes it even more special.
“You can have a mix of Liverpool and Everton supporters from the same family too.”
He continued: “It’s different to other derbies. When you hear the word ‘derby’ you think of the hate and dislike that both clubs have for each other, but that’s not really the case with Liverpool and Everton.”
But despite the healthy rivalry between the two side, Cisse was always made aware of the importance of winning the fixture.
“It is still a derby, and as a player it’s very important. It isn’t like PSG v Marseille, or Panathinaikos v Olympiacos, but it’s still a huge football game,” he admitted.
“I enjoyed both types of games. Both are equally important. It’s maybe not the same intensity, or when you lose it’s not the same reaction, but I liked being part of both.
“You can feel the difference (leading up to a derby) during the whole week. Fans in the city make sure you know that this game is really important for them, especially when you are a foreigner.
“I had heard about the Merseyside derby, but I didn’t know the real meaning, so sometimes it’s good to know how big it is for people and it makes you realise how serious it is for them. You don’t want to disappoint them.”
While Liverpool supporters made the Frenchman aware of the importance on the streets of Merseyside, Cisse said that it was one man more than any other who drilled home the significance of a Liverpool game against Everton.
He said: “I was close to Stevie G (Steven Gerrard), and he told me how important this game was, so I knew I had to give 100% to make Liverpool the team of the city.
“As a team, we always had a relaxed atmosphere, but when it was training time it was training time, and when it was game time it was game time. We knew when to be serious, but even in derby week it was a relaxed atmosphere and a good group.”
Cisse’s former side head into this derby with just two wins from their last 10 Premier League outings, and the Frenchman admits retaining the title is no longer realistic.
“It’s unusual from Liverpool, as we are used to seeing them at the top of the Premier League or at least in the top two or three. It’s hard to see the team lower down the table.
“They can do better, and there’s still points to make up, but they won’t catch Manchester City, who are strong this year and they won’t give away points that easy,” he stated.
“I hope that Liverpool will finish in the top three which is still possible. I’m confident they will do everything to finish in the top four.”
The former Reds hitman has been impressed with the Toffees this season and thinks that Carlo Ancelotti has built a good side for the blue side of the city to be happy with.
“Carlo Ancelotti turns players around and makes them play well. They (Everton) play well and win games, and it’s a derby so anything can happen. Even if Everton were last and Liverpool first, you’d still expect a tough game,” he noted.
“I still feel Liverpool at their best will beat Everton, but you have to deserve to win games.”
Asked for his prediction for Saturday, there was only ever going to be one outcome.
“Liverpool will win. Maybe 3-1, and I fancy Sadio Mane, Jordan Henderson and Mohamed Salah to score.”
We’ll see come Saturday evening…