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The former England international believes the Reds will beat Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday but will struggle to finish above the Toffees during a transitional year

EXCLUSIVE
By David Lynch

Merseyside derby veteran Nick Barmby has backed Liverpool to mount a Premier League title challenge in two or three years and, ahead of Sunday's Merseyside derby, believes the Reds will come out on top against Everton

The 38-year-old featured for both sides as a player, having made the controversial move across Stanley Park in 2000 following a four-year spell with the Toffees.

Liverpool finished below Everton in the league standings for the first time since 2005 last season although Barmby, speaking at the launch of Streetchance, a sporting initiative aimed at increasing youth participation in sport in inner-city areas, believes Brendan Rodgers' side will soon be back on track.

He told Goal.com: "I think Everton will definitely be seeking a Champions League spot and I think for Liverpool this season will be a transitional period.

"It’ll be more of a season where they’re bringing young players through and getting a full season under their belt but in two or three years Liverpool will definitely be up there challenging for that title again.

"But if Everton beat Liverpool on Sunday it’ll open up quite a gap and they’d fancy their chances to finish above them."

Liverpool have won three of the last four Merseyside derbies, the most recent an FA Cup semi-final victory at Wembley, and Barmby is adamant the Reds will snatch victory at Goodison Park.

"I think because of the way Everton are going into the game as favourites you always find the other team wins and I do think Liverpool will nick it on Sunday," he added.

The former England international, who featured in six derbies, also gave his thoughts on what makes the fixture so unique in English football.

"The build-up sees a lot more press and it’s totally different to a normal game," he said.

"You see fans in the streets saying ‘make sure you get one over on the red noses’ and it’s an incredible game to play. It’s the best derby I’ve played in, and I don’t say that lightly because I’ve played in some very good derbies, but the Liverpool-Everton derby is unique.

"You’re getting families divided for the day but they’re going to the game all together and they’ll sit next to each other, which I don’t think happens in any other derby in the world and is a credit to the people of Liverpool. Whether it’s at Goodison or Anfield the atmosphere is superb and it’s one of the best games you can play a part in.

"My first derby when I was at Everton was at Anfield and we drew 1-1 and Gary Speed scored in the last 10 minutes. I remember coming off the pitch and sampling the atmosphere, it was amazing.

"When I went to Liverpool and we won against Everton and I managed to score and we won 3-1, it was incredible the stick I got from Evertonians that day but you understand that and they never crossed the line.

"There were no vile chants, it was all good humoured banter but you expect that from the people of Merseyside because they’re very educated in their football."

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