Belfast Telegraph

McCarthy hoping fans will roar Toffees on to derby success

James McCarthy is banking on Everton's fans creating another memorable occasion at Goodison Park when Liverpool head across Stanley Park on Monday.

The 227th Merseyside derby is the last Premier League fixture before Christmas, with the Reds looking to keep their title challenge afloat and the Toffees revelling in the idea of knocking them off track.

The home fans need no encouragement to get themselves up for what is always a special date on their calendar, but McCarthy has reminded them just how much their passion is appreciated after the raucous reaction to a surprise win over Arsenal last week.

"The fans responded after a few tackles and Arsenal knew they were in a game," he said.

"It was a really great atmosphere and now we're looking to the derby. The fans will come out in their numbers, as always, and within the squad we know how massive the game is. We look forward to it.

"Under the floodlights at Goodison you can see the atmosphere and it's one you want, one we're all really excited about.

"It's definitely always a big game, it's your rivals and you want to get one over them. When Monday comes, we'll be ready."

Republic of Ireland midfielder McCarthy has struggled for regular game time this year, but has started the last two matches and is eager to take on Jurgen Klopp's men.

Injuries and an unseemly club-versus-country row appeared to be derailing his season, if not his Everton career, but he acquitted himself well against a strong Gunners midfield on Tuesday.

Manager Ronald Koeman now has a call to make, with Idrissa Gueye a virtual certainty to start and veteran Gareth Barry available after sitting out last time.

That McCarthy is even providing the Dutchman with a headache is a sign of how his standing has improved, along with his conditioning, in recent weeks.

"I understand that I need to make a decision...I'm happy that I have different options and I will choose the best one," said Koeman.

"It was a long time that he (McCarthy) was not really at that level of fitness. He was struggling, then he was fit but after one or two weeks again a hamstring injury. Now he's really on a good level of fitness and the player can show the best of him.

"I think we saw from James his performance was outstanding against Arsenal. The reaction from him after 20 minutes, which most of the players followed, made it difficult for Arsenal."

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