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Liverpool, Everton set for Merseyside derby

Liverpool, England (SportsNetwork.com) - There will be plenty on the line at Goodison Park on Saturday when Liverpool and Everton meet for the latest installment of the Merseyside derby.

It is a clash of two teams that enter the contest inside the top-six of the Premier League as the Reds occupy second place on 23 points, three points clear of the Toffees.

But the Merseyside derby, one of world football's most intense fixtures, transcends their respective positions in the table.

The rivalry, embedded into the fiber of the city of Liverpool, is so fierce that even foreign-born players feel its heat.

Take Lucas Leiva, for example. The Brazilian midfielder made his Merseyside derby debut six years ago when he replaced Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard as a second-half substitute, and he played a crucial role in the affair by drawing a late penalty that allowed Dirk Kuyt to slam home the dagger in a 2-1 win.

"It was completely different from anything I'd ever experienced before," Leiva told the Liverpool Echo. "That was my first league game in England and I was so young. When I first came I knew about the derby but I didn't really fully understand about it. I hadn't really been able to meet people around the city and speak with them about it. Coming on for Stevie in that game opened my eyes and really showed me what it meant to both sets of supporters.

"My first experience of playing against Everton was fantastic, with us getting that win. I was able to have an impact in helping us get the result we wanted. Having been here for so many years I know this is a different type of game. It's a special match. As players we need to approach it as a normal game. But we all know it's not only about the three points. It's about the city and about the people. This is a different week for the fans. We know it means more than three points for them."

Everton comes into the contest on a four-game unbeaten run, but Liverpool ran out to a convincing 4-0 defeat of Fulham last time out.

Three points for the Reds will place additional pressure on first-place Arsenal to take maximum points from its clash with third-place Southampton at the Emirates on Saturday, while fourth-place Chelsea will hope to end its two- game winless run and keep pace when it heads to Upton Park to face West Ham United.

Also on Saturday, Fulham looks to end its three-game slide when it welcomes Swansea City to Craven Cottage, last-place Crystal Palace takes on Hull City at the KC Stadium, Norwich City tussles with Newcastle United at St. James' Park and Stoke City hosts Sunderland at the Britannia.

On Sunday, Manchester United will test its three-game winning run at Cardiff City and Manchester City squares off with Tottenham in a crucial tilt at the Etihad, while Monday's lone Premier League fixture sees Aston Villa head to the Hawthorns to face West Bromwich Albion.