By Paul Tomkins

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Extra resources for Above Us Only Sky: Liverpool FC's Global Revolution

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As it was in Sheffield, the Reds lost Riise and Carragher to firsthalf injuries. The team selection at Everton was instantly hampered by injuries, but Benítez, with good reason, opted for ten players who’d previously experienced the Mersey derby, including Robbie Fowler (who clearly understood the significance of the fixture), in what was still a very strong line-up. The only newcomer was Fabio Aurelio, on account of Riise’s injury. One problem was that although Jamie Carragher returned from injury that day, he was patently unfit.

Both could hare forward and get at the Arsenal left-back, knowing that if the move broke down, either Mascherano or Alonso –– both canny readers of the game with tactical knowledge beyond their years –– would shuffle 32 across in time, while the other could stay central to protect the centre-backs. Meanwhile, on the left that day, Aurelio was getting forward to great effect, with González also having one of his better games. So while the team contained two holding midfielders, there was no lack of forward intent.

United had no-one who started more than 87% of league games. Overall, both teams had six ultra-key players who started in 76-99% of league games; Chelsea, by contrast, had only four (injuries to Petr Cech and John Terry lowered this from the expected six). Then come the important players who started 50-75% of matches, but were not indispensable. Again Liverpool had six players in this category, but United only had four (Chelsea had six). So, while Chelsea and Manchester United had only ten players who started the majority of league matches, Liverpool had 12.

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