Why are Liverpool and Everton rivals? Merseyside derby explained

  • Known as the 'friendly derby'
  • Most records skew in Liverpool's favour
  • Played every season since 1962
The derby is always hotly contested
The derby is always hotly contested / PAUL ELLIS/GettyImages

One of the biggest and most constant fixtures on the Premier League calendar is the Merseyside derby which is contested by Liverpool and Everton. It is an incredibly historic game of football and one that differs from many different rivalries around the world.

Often referred to as the 'friendly derby', the Merseyside derby cannot be put in the same bracket as same-city derbies such as Lazio vs AS Roma and Boca Juniors vs River Plate where there is genuine hatred and regular crowd trouble between the two sets of supporters.

That doesn't mean that it doesn't mean a huge amount to both sets of fans and the inhabitants of the city, though. Here is the history of the derby and what it means today.

Merseyside derby origins

This derby is the longest-running one in the English top flight as it has been played every single season since 1962, something that cannot be said for the North London derby or the Manchester derby.

Everton are one of the founding members of the English football league and they have spent more seasons in the top flight than anyone else. Since 1888, they have played 117 seasons in the top flight and have not been in a lower tier since 1954.

They started life by playing their games at Anfield, the current home of Liverpool FC. Due to a rent dispute, though, they moved across Stanley Park and now play their games at Goodison Park ever since 1892. When two teams are situated just a patch of grass away from each other, it is obvious that a rivalry is going to form.

Sheer proximity is what made the rivalry exist, and it was later exacerbated when Everton were denied access to European football twice following the behaviour of Liverpool fans on the continent during the 1980s. Sectarian and political differences did exist between the sides as well during the early years, as Everton were viewed as the Catholic club and Liverpool as the Protestant club, although this is definitely not a factor in the modern day.



Why is it known as the 'friendly derby'?

This is primarily because violence between the two sets of supporters never seemed to be commonplace. Of course, there have been incidents over the years, but not to the same scale as other major football matches in England or the rest of the world.

This could be because having hailed from the same area of the city, it is common for Liverpool and Everton fans to be very close friends with each other or even be from the same families. Brothers and sisters may not speak to each other for a few days leading up to the fixture, but they won't be found fighting in the streets.

The Hillsborough tragedy is also a factor. Liverpool as a city felt repressed and neglected by the authorities. While it was Liverpool's fans who lost their lives, it was seen as another example of the city and its people being treated poorly. Many Everton fans had friends and family that lost their lives or were injured that day in 1989.

The Merseyside derby in the modern day

Mohamed Salah, Vitalii Mykolenko
Mo Salah is no stranger to a Merseyside derby goal / Alex Livesey - Danehouse/GettyImages

As time has worn on, particularly in the last decade or so, Liverpool have been the favourites for almost every meeting between the two sides. Everton have been stuck in a self-destructive loop where they have routinely been battling against relegation without ever actually going down.

Liverpool meanwhile have found success in the last handful of seasons under Jurgen Klopp and have been a very good team at varying points over the past decade. Everton are certainly the underdogs in this phase of the derbies' history.

The derby has been played 243 times since 1894. Liverpool have won it 99 times and Everton have won 67 of the meetings. There have been 77 draws.

The two sides next face off on Saturday, October 21 at Anfield. The game kicks off at 12:30 BST.

Merseyside derby records

  • The biggest home victory saw Liverpool win 6-0 at Anfield in the 1935-36 season
  • The biggest away victory was Everton 0-5 Liverpool in 1982/83. Everton won 5-0 at Anfield in 1914/15
  • Highest scoring match: 7-4 Liverpool win at Anfield in the 1932-33 season
  • Most appearances: Neville Southall of Everton with 41
  • Most goals: Ian Rush with 25 goals for Liverpool
  • Record attendance: 78,599 at Goodison Park on 18 September 1948.