Alex Iwobi has said the lack of fans at Anfield for Saturday’s Merseyside derby could give Everton a crucial advantage over city rivals Liverpool.
With the Toffees seeking their first away win against the Reds since 1999, Iwobi said the cauldron that Anfield is renowned for being on a normal derby day can have an effect on the visiting players.
But with fans banned from stadium in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, an empty Anfield could work in Everton’s favour.
‘With the way Anfield is set up, it’s almost like the fans are on the pitch,’ Iwobi told BBC Sport.
‘It may be a bit of an advantage for us, but it’s a Merseyside derby so both teams are going to be up for the game.’
Despite having spent his formative years in the nation’s capital with Arsenal, Iwobi needs no educating on the significance of the Merseyside derby, whose blue side he joined in 2019.
‘I haven’t been able to go into the town as much because of coronavirus, but I’m even seeing red and blue cars and straightaway I know what’s what,’ he explained.
‘When I’m going towards the stadium for games, I see Everton flags on houses and Liverpool flags on cars. It’s a big rivalry and a big division.’
Iwobi showed early promise with the Gunners but failed to impress enough to become a first-team regular despite making 100 appearances for the North London club.
The 24-year-old also has 44 international caps for Nigeria, and said he has improved as a player by working with Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti.
‘Growing up in the Arsenal system, I played numerous positions. So for me to play right wing-back, I wasn’t really lost as people would’ve thought I would be.
‘It wasn’t really difficult for me to adjust. With the manager Carlo Ancelotti, I’ve improved a bit more with my final third, end product.
‘If I do beat a man, then I’m able to create a chance for my team-mates. That’s what he wants me to do a bit more.’
The upcoming Anfield encounter has extra spice even though there will not be fans in the ground, with the 2-2 draw at Goodison Park earlier this season now infamous for Jordan Pickford’s horror tackle on Virgil Van Dijk, which ended his campaign.
Everton will go level on points with Liverpool in the Premier League if they win. The Reds have been uncharacteristically vulnerable at home, losing their 68-game unbeaten home league record to Burnley in January and also losing to Brighton and Hove Albion.