Divock Origi expecting ‘a war’ as Liverpool visit Goodison Park
Belgian international was victim of horrific challenge in the last Merseyside derby
Liverpool’s Divock Origi has five goals in his last five games. Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA
Liverpool’s Divock Origi is expecting “a war” with Everton at Goodison Park tonight, when he will likely confront Ramiro Funes Mori for the first time since being injured by the Argentina defender last season.
The Belgium striker’s last experience of a Merseyside derby was a brutal one when he suffered ankle ligament damage as a result of an appalling challenge from Funes Mori. And he is anticipating another attritional contest when the Merseyside rivals meet for the 227th time.
Goodison was at its raucous best when Everton recorded their first win in six league matches last week against Arsenal, though only after Ronald Koeman’s team showed the aggression their manager had demanded. And Origi insists Liverpool will be prepared for a repeat as they look to extend a 12-game unbeaten run in the derby and close the gap on the Premier League leaders, Chelsea.
“It will be a war,” the 21-year-old said, “so we go there in a very positive way. You want to win this game, you know it will not be easy, it is a derby so it will be special and a very big and important game for us as a club also. We have to prepare it well.”
Funes Mori is expected to return to the heart of Everton’s defence as the captain, Phil Jagielka, is suspended. He was sent off for his foul on Origi at Anfield in April, also receiving a club fine from the then manager Roberto Martínez, and apologised both on social media and through club channels for the tackle that sidelined the striker for four weeks and effectively cost him a chance of starting the Europa League final.
A phlegmatic Origi said: “These are things that happen. I came back stronger and I have to continue growing. These things happen in a football career. I received an official message [from Funes Mori]. I keep on looking forward and I am very excited for the next game. How will I feel? I don’t know who is playing but I am very motivated.”
The Liverpool striker is in his best run of form since that derby in April, when he scored his 10th goal of the campaign in a 4-0 victory, having scored five goals in his past five games for Jürgen Klopp’s team.
“I am happy to express myself in a positive way but I think this is only the beginning,” Origi added. “At the end I will have time to reflect on the season and see what is good and not good, but obviously I am feeling better and better and I am very happy I can express myself on the field.
“I like to keep my goal target to myself but I am very, very ambitious. I always said I want to get the best out of my potential. This has given me confidence but I still I have to grow and, like I said, now is not the time to be happy. I have to work hard, work hard and keep going. At the end of the season we will see what we have reached.”
Klopp believes a return to fitness has allowed the former Lille forward to demonstrate he has all the attributes to succeed, and that there is more to come from the £9.6 million signing.
The Liverpool manager said: “He is at a very good level. Divock knows he can improve a lot and he has to. It is good for us at the moment, he scores and he is involved. There are a lot of wonderful improvements that I can see already but a player like Divock at 21, he is so skilled I don’t know where the development will stop at the end. He has all you need for a decent career, 100 per cent. In the moment he is in good shape but he is far away from being 100 per cent Divock Origi. For a striker it is about 25 or 26, when they can mix it up.”
Klopp and his Liverpool squad watched Everton’s game against Arsenal at Gisborough Hall, their overnight base before the 3-0 win at Middlesbrough that ensured both Merseyside teams approach the derby with morale repaired. The Liverpool manager expects, arguably even wants, a repeat of the raucous atmosphere that greeted the home team’s eventual improvement against Arsène Wenger’s side, admitting the onus is on the visitors to turn hostilities to their advantage.
“It is fact that atmosphere can make a difference but I don’t have any fears,” Klopp said. “The first 20 minutes Everton had been aggressive but they couldn’t get the challenges where they wanted. Then Arsenal opened the game for them and Goodison Park ran through. As a neutral football fan, things like this are nice to see. That is how it is. It is not easy, even in an outstanding atmosphere. Last year we had a really good away atmosphere in Manchester for the Europa League against United. We had a wonderful atmosphere against Dortmund, in both games. The job is to make it is a difficult as possible for the crowd to enjoy the game.
“The last half-hour against Dortmund [at Anfield last season] was the best I have ever experienced but the most difficult? Actually I am not like this. I’m not afraid of it, it’s only football. I like it. It makes the job a little bit different but, at the end, it is still the same job. There is always an influence on the atmosphere. You need to be really aggressive but not on the edge where you will be illegal. Concentrate on football. Use the noise. We are there to play football. We know that it’s not for us. It’s loud, it’s emotional. Use it.”
Koeman believes Everton have been guilty of “acting too nice” this season but that the performance against Arsenal, eventually, reminded his players of the benefits of tempo and temper. Not that he expects Klopp’s team to be quite so compliant, however.
“We knew about Arsenal,” the Everton manager said. “They like to play good football but they have difficulties when it is a fight to play their best level, and we showed that. We did it wrong in the first 20 minutes but we had a good reaction and that’s how you need to play and how we like to play every game, not just when we play at home. But we know Liverpool is different to Arsenal. Liverpool are more physical and play aggressive football. That is different but to get a good result we need to show the same as last Tuesday.” Guardian service