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Mascherano can't wait to face Everton

Published 22/01/2009

Javier Mascherano cannot wait to face Everton in Sunday’s FA Cup derby, insisting that he just loves playing against Liverpool’s cross-city rivals.

The Argentinian midfielder was left on the bench on Monday when Liverpool at times found themselves out-muscled by Everton in the 1-1 Barclays Premier League draw at Anfield.

Now battle lines are being drawn again for this weekend’s fourth-round clash, with Mascherano likely to be recalled by manager Rafael Benitez.

The Anfield chief may also bring back defender Daniel Agger and full-back Alvaro Arbeloa for the match.

But it is Mascherano’s recall that is most expected - and the 25 year-old is primed for battle.

He said: "I like playing against Everton. Every tackle matters and you have to be brave in every tackle and every situation.

"I love this kind of game where first you have to win the physical battle before you can think about winning the match."

Liverpool surprisingly reverted to a 4-4-2 formation against Everton on Monday, with Mascherano left out in favour of a central midfield of Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard.

Everton skipper Phil Neville, playing in midfield, produced a destructive performance that Liverpool could well counter by bringing back Mascherano.

They also seem likely to push Gerrard further forward in support of Fernando Torres, with Robbie Keane again consigned to the bench.

And Mascherano would relish the challenge: "At Anfield the crowd roars you on and you just feel that you can’t come off the pitch with anything left.

"You have to give everything to make sure Liverpool get the right result. When the game is the FA Cup, it is even more important because we want to go far in this competition."

Mascherano has not finished on a losing side against Everton, and has plenty of experience of derby battles from his days in South America with River Plate and Corinthians.

He said: "I have played in some great derbies in the world and they are all unique occasions in their own right.

"In Argentina I played for River Plate against Boca Juniors many, many times. That is the biggest derby match of them all back home.

Belfast Telegraph

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