Everton Baines boost ahead of biggest derby for 30 years
The Toffees deliver snub to Man United ahead of huge clash with local rivals Liverpool at Anfield
EVERTON defender Leighton Baines has signed a new long-term contract with the Toffees, delivering a snub to suitors Manchester United on the eve of a Merseyside derby against Liverpool, which some observers believe could lead to a shift in the balance of power in Liverpool, if not the North West.
With Everton five points clear of United in the table and only one point behind Liverpool, manager Roberto Martinez has enjoyed a stellar start to his reign at Goodison. So much so that the match at Anfield this week has taken on extra significance.
"It would not be overstating the magnitude of Tuesday's Merseyside derby by suggesting it is the biggest league encounter between Liverpool and Everton for almost 30 years," says Alan Hansen in the Daily Telegraph.
"Liverpool and Everton will not be battling out for the title on Tuesday night, but with the two teams harbouring genuine prospects of Champions League qualification this season, it is a massive game and without doubt the biggest derby since the Eighties."
Hansen believes that a Liverpool victory could sound the death knell for Everton's European push and would give United fresh hope as they try to catch them.
A win for Everton, however, would propel them above the Reds and would mean that Martinez has achieved something in his first season in charge that David Moyes never managed in 11 years as Everton boss - a win at Anfield.
Martinez saw his first Merseyside derby end 3-3 earlier in the season. It was the third consecutive draw between the two clubs, notes Goal.com.
"Both Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers and Everton boss Roberto Martinez will be eager to secure their first Merseyside derby victory," says the website.
With so little between the teams in recent times Everton will fancy their chances of success, despite Liverpool's impressive home record this season.
The Toffees will certainly go into the game on a high after persuading Baines to sign for another four years.The Times says the deal is a "statement of intent" from the Toffees, who have convinced the defender that he is better off at Goodison than with his former manager Moyes at Old Trafford.
Martinez says that the deal has given the club a "phenomenal boost", whole the Daily Mail calls it a "blow" for Man United.
Backing that up with a derby win would give Everton a real momentum in the race for the Champions League.