Former Liverpool star Mark Lawrenson played in plenty of Merseyside derbies himself but he feels Sunday’s meeting without fans will be like no other in the fixture’s 124-year history.
Lawro will be at Goodison Park as co-commentator for BBC Radio 5 Live and said: “Of all the games to be played behind closed doors this weekend, this is going to feel like the strangest one.
“It is a derby but it won’t feel like one in any shape or form. I will be very surprised if the players are clattering into each other like they normally would.
“Goodison is usually such an intimidating ground in terms of the backing Everton get, especially against Liverpool, and the players usually feed of that derby atmosphere. We will not see any of that this time though.”
Lawro is making predictions for all 380 top-flight matches this season, against a variety of guests.
This week he is up against Al Greenwood, drummer with indie band Sports Team.
Sports Team have gone straight in at number two in the charts with their debut album ‘Deep Down Happy’, missing out on top spot to Lady Gaga by fewer than 600 sales.
“It’s been a hectic week,” Greenwood told BBC Sport. “A combination of our album coming out and Premier League football coming back have made it an amazing few days.”
Greenwood is a Manchester United fan and a keen footballer herself.
She told BBC Sport: “I used to play pretty competitively, never at too high a level, but I would be training or playing six or seven times a week.
“Since the band kicked off, I am much more of an occasional five-a-side player – we had a kickaround in the park this week actually – but I’m still a massive fan of grass-roots football and a huge supporter of the men’s and women’s game.
“Women’s football has made such amazing leaps and bounds in the past few years and I am really disappointed to see it is not coming back after the season was halted early by the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is a huge opportunity lost, both from the perspective of the gains made at the top level off the back of last summer’s World Cup and also the impact it will have lower down, on younger players.
“For me, sitting at home watching the Bundesliga in the past few weeks has brought home how much I missed football and there is a huge appetite for people wanting to watch it in any format.
“Imagine the impact if the Women’s Super League season had been scheduled around the men’s Premier League games and games were shown live on TV?
“The authorities talk a good game about football for all and equality across the sport but the outcome has been disappointing as a fan, particularly a United fan, because of what their manager Casey Stoney has done with that side and the sense of community the club had build up.
“It is very exciting that the Premier League is back, of course but, for United’s women’s team, not getting to complete their first season in the top flight is a bitter pill to swallow.”
|Premier League predictions – week 30|
|Norwich v Southampton||x-x||2-1||1-2|
|Tottenham v Man Utd||x-x||1-1||1-3|
|Watford v Leicester||x-x||0-2||0-2|
|Brighton v Arsenal||x-x||0-2||0-4|
|West Ham v Wolves||x-x||1-0||0-2|
|Bournemouth v Crystal Palace||x-x||2-1||1-1|
|Newcastle v Sheff Utd||x-x||1-1||0-3|
|Aston Villa v Chelsea||x-x||0-2||2-0|
|Everton v Liverpool||x-x||0-1||1-3|
|Man City v Burnley||x-x||3-0||4-0|
A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns 40 points.
Norwich v Southampton (18:00 BST)
Norwich are six points off safety but if they can treat the restart like the start of a season, and Teemu Pukki can find a burst of scoring form like he did in August and September, they have got a chance of staying up.
That is the optimistic way of looking at their situation. On the flip side, they are seriously short of fit defenders for the remainder of the campaign.
But what I think might help Norwich is what I noticed from Wednesday’s games, when there was quite a lot of football being played. Things were not happening at 100 miles per hour like they normally would and the tackles were not flying in either.
I think everyone’s first few games are going to have the same feel and lack a bit of urgency – as if it is a pre-season practice match behind closed doors, rather than if there are points at stake – which might help the Canaries deal with being unable to rest the defenders they do have available.
Saints are still not safe themselves and they were on a poor run before football stopped because of the coronavirus pandemic, losing four out of five.
That form is pretty irrelevant now, and I think they will be all right – but I cannot be totally sure.
If they start badly, they could be dragged into the relegation battle, but it is hard to know exactly what to expect from them or everyone else until we see all the teams in action once or twice.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-1
Al’s prediction: I think Norwich will come out fighting but I would back Saints to win it. 1-2
Tottenham v Man Utd (20:15 BST)
It is going to be interesting to see how Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer puts his team together now he has players back fit.
Earlier in the season, he was having to mix and match in midfield but now he has Paul Pogba back to play alongside Bruno Fernandes and they are both players of real quality.
United were doing well without Pogba but, if he is anywhere near his best form, he is going to enhance that team further.
Tottenham have benefitted from the break too of course, in the way they have Harry Kane back available after suffering a spell where they were short of strikers and struggling for results.
Both of these teams will have their eye on a top-five finish which might get them into the Champions League. A win would be a big boost for both of them but I think they will share the points here.
We know what Spurs boss Jose Mourinho is like – he will just not want to lose his first game back, especially against his former club and rivals for a European place.
But on top of that, I just think the circumstances will mean this game lacks the usual intensity you would expect when these teams meet.
They are both fighting for the same prize, but it won’t feel like it.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Al’s prediction: We were playing so well before the break and it is hard to predict what effect that loss of momentum will have on the team.
But I have to back them really – I could not be a bigger fan of Marcus Rashford on and off the pitch and having him and Pogba back fit, and playing alongside Bruno Fernandes for the first time, is very exciting. 1-3
Al on why she supports United: “My dad grew up in Stockport and is a United season-ticket holder. It was his mum, my grandma, who got me into football.
“She was an incredible lady, god rest her soul, who would just sit and chain-smoke watching Western films in her tiny council flat and the only time I ever saw her on her feet was playing football, training me. I remember she had a signed picture of David Beckham on her mantlepiece – he was her hero.
“My dad would take me to games and we would get to Old Trafford hours early and just walk around the ground to soak up the atmosphere.
“I think a match day is one of those things that are incomparable for a child to be able to experience with all the energy around it. All your senses so alive to the sights, the smells and the sounds – so it will be special for everyone when fans are allowed back into games again because all of us are missing it at the moment.”
Watford v Leicester (12:30 BST)
I am going for Leicester here – I think this is a trickier situation for Watford boss Nigel Pearson than when he took over in December.
He had that initial bounce in results and got some great performances from his players, but can they do that again without any supporters? I am not convinced that they can.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-2
Al’s prediction: I have got a soft spot for Watford, particularly Troy Deeney, who is a thoroughly good guy. He has been quite outspoken recently about making LGBTQ people inclusive in football and hopefully a lot of positives will come from that.
In terms of the game, though, Leicester have been flying this season and I can see Jamie Vardy making the difference. 0-2
Brighton v Arsenal (15:00 BST)
This is a quick turnaround for Arsenal after Wednesday’s defeat by Manchester City but at least it is only a short flight for them this time.
Being serious, I cannot believe the Gunners only flew up to Manchester a few hours before kick-off. That will not have helped their preparations at all.
But at least Arsenal have played now. I do think the teams with a game under their belt will benefit a lot, fitness-wise. In a strange way, the fact they went down to 10 men and got a bit of a chasing might help in that area too.
Before it all went wrong for them, the Gunners did look quite lively on the counter-attack at Etihad Stadium and the same approach might work for them here.
I worry for Brighton, who are the only top-flight team without a league win this year and have got a tricky run-in too. They draw a lot of games, but can they pick up enough points that way to claw themselves to safety?
Lawro’s prediction: 0-2
Al’s prediction: I see this as being a much more comfortable afternoon for Arsenal. 0-4
West Ham v Wolves (17:30 BST)
There is often a negative vibe at London Stadium so it is possible that an absence of fans will not hurt West Ham’s chances as much as it might do to other sides.
Clearly Wolves have had a much better season but the Hammers are not a bad team on their day, and are better than their position in the table suggests, so I am backing them to spring a bit of a surprise.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-0
Al’s prediction: The only potential problem for Wolves this season was that Nuno Espirito Santo was playing the same team week-in, week-out, but after the break they have had, they will be strong again. That issue might come back around again with the number of games to be played in such a short space of time, but it will not be a factor right now – and all United fans are watching their backs. 0-2
Bournemouth v Crystal Palace (19:45 BST)
This game is live on the BBC and I think it is a great example of why this first full set of games is so hard to predict.
Palace are known for making life difficult for teams, but will they do that if this feels like a pre-season friendly? Also, the Eagles are basically safe in mid-table so they are not going to be scrapping for points like Bournemouth will be.
All it takes is one or two of their players to be thinking ‘let’s just get these games out of the way’ for the whole team’s level to drop off. I would not expect that to happen with Roy Hodgson in charge but you cannot be completely sure until you see them play.
As for the Cherries, well they tend to go on very good – or very bad – runs of results but who knows how they will start this mini-season, which is what this is now.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-1
Al’s prediction: Bournemouth will have have had a chance to reset and work out exactly what was going wrong for them. It could be a tight game. 1-1
Newcastle v Sheff Utd (14:00 BST)
Newcastle’s takeover saga rumbles on and on and on. I feel a bit sorry for their manager Steve Bruce, who has done a really good job – every time he loses he is out of a job, apparently, and it is the same with stories about him being replaced by whoever buys the club.
Sheffield United did not really look like scoring for long periods against Aston Villa and, sadly for them, everyone who mattered missed it when they did get the ball into the net.
I don’t see many goals being scored in this set of fixtures anyway, but especially not at St James’ Park.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Al’s prediction: I think playing already will help Sheffield United get into their stride a bit. 0-3
Aston Villa v Chelsea (16:15 BST)
Villa’s first game back against Sheffield United would have been a great one for them to win given their situation but they did not really do enough.
Yes, they tried to get in and around the Blades but there was no massive urgency.
Dean Smith’s have an advantage in that they have already played once but I am backing Chelsea here. I don’t think the Blues will have any problems creating chances, put it that way.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-2
Al’s prediction: Again, Villa have played once, and they are fighting for their lives. I fancy an upset. 2-0
Everton v Liverpool (19:00 BST)
I am expecting Liverpool to be the team trying to set the pace but it is optimistic to expect the kind of performance that has put them so far clear at the top of the table.
As good as the Reds’ front three are, they are only brilliant when they are really sharp and I don’t think they will be.
I would not be surprised if Everton are cautious, play three at the back and sit in a little bit – they don’t want to get torn apart – so because of all that I can see it being a close game.
But the way Liverpool’s season has gone so far, I am still going to go with them to find a way of winning. We already know they are capable of doing that when they are not at their best.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-1
Al’s prediction: I have already come to terms with the fact that Liverpool are going to win the title. I think you have to hold your hands up and say that they have been absolutely incredible this season. My partner is an Everton fan so I have been to Goodison a few times but it is hard to see them doing much here. 1-3
Man City v Burnley (20:00 BST)
Liverpool will be champions if they beat Everton and City lose this game – but I think they might have to keep the champagne on ice a little bit longer.
This will be Burnley’s first game back and Sean Dyche’s side are the one team who might buck the trend and be at it straight away – being competitive, and tackling.
But City have the massive advantage of having played once already, on top of the fact they are a much better team of course.
Burnley might still be full of running, harassing and chasing – but only for 70 minutes, not for 90.
Lawro’s prediction: 3-0
Al’s prediction: Burnley are pretty good at parking the bus but I still City will break them down and end up winning easily. 4-0
Lawro was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.
How did Lawro do last time?
For Wednesday’s games, Lawro got the right result but the wrong score-line in both games, earning him an extra 20 points in the tables below.
|+/- DENOTE POSITION DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LAWRO’S TABLE AND ACTUAL POSITION|
GUEST LEADERBOARD 2019-20
|110||Daisy May and Charlie Cooper|
|90||Avelino, Helen Housby, Jo Harten, Bobby Seagull, Geraint Thomas|
|80||Tom Davis, Andy Murray, Stephen Graham|
|75||Lawro (average after 29 weeks)|
|70||David Baddiel, Richard Hawley, Kojo, Michael Johnson, Craig Mitch, Alex Scott|
|60||Sonny Bill Williams, Georgia, Katie Ormerod, Serge from Kasabian, Stefan Ratchford|
|50||Chelcee Grimes, Reece Parkinson, Sam Warburton|
|40||Stephen Fry, Hugh Grant, Tom Grennan, Neil Jones, Tommy O’Dell, Steve Queralt|
|30||Matthew McConaughey, Seth Rollins|
|Total scores after week 29|