• Belgian peppered with Molotov cocktails in Athens derby
• Brendan Rodgers expected to field four derby debutants
Little has fazed Kevin Mirallas since a £5.4m move to Everton and his first Merseyside derby should be no exception. After all, the Belgium international's last experience of a local dispute ended with police protection required as Molotov cocktails rained down around him.
If the moniker of the "friendly derby" no longer applies on Merseyside there is no disputing the "derby of the eternal enemies" – as the Athens' rivalry between Olympiakos and Panathinaikos is known – holds true. Mirallas was part of the Olympiakos team who were leading there in March, and on course for a second consecutive league title, when home fans attacked riot police, set fire to seats, the scoreboard, threw firebombs on to the pitch and forced the game to be abandoned with eight minutes remaining. It puts the Premier League fixture with the most red cards (20) into perspective.
Mirallas reflects: "We were winning 1-0 and were also four points ahead of them in the league so they were getting really worked up. Some of the fans got on to the pitch and were throwing Molotov cocktails. It got really out of hand. Bodyguards and security came on to protect us and we had to run for our lives. It was frightening but at the same time also really exciting to play in that type of game because if you win it's a great achievement and you feel great about it. After one derby win we went back to the club and 10,000 of our fans were waiting for us."
The 25-year-old is likely to be Everton's only derby debutant at Goodison Park on Sunday . Liverpool could have four, the manager Brendan Rodgers excluded.
Mirallas' direct running and willingness to shoot on sight have been features of his quick impact at Everton and with Steven Pienaar suspended, he may replace the influential South African on the left. David Moyes has deployed the forward mostly on the right but believes Mirallas can offer a greater threat cutting in from the opposite flank. Wherever he plays, the former Lille and Saint-Etienne striker is conscious of Everton's desire to avenge three losses to Liverpool last season.
"One of the first things I was told when I signed was the importance of this game," said Mirallas, who was also a summer target for Arsenal. "I know there was a lot of disappointment among the players after what happened last season, especially being so close to the FA Cup final, and we don't want a repeat of that. Liverpool are in a weaker position but we respect them. It is a derby, and it doesn't matter so much if a side has a weakness in those games."
Among those vying for their first derby experience for Liverpool are Suso, Andre Wisdom and Raheem Sterling. Rodgers, as has been the case throughout his debut season in charge, does not consider hostile territory reason to postpone their education.
The Liverpool manager said: "I have no qualms about them at all. They have shown already this season that they can handle it. I have got no fears because they have come in and been absolutely outstanding. Andre Wisdom can take on the world. He is built like a boxer, he is strong, quick and he won't get beat. There is no problem there. For our longer term, they will have to sample these type of games."
José Reina will be given every opportunity to recover from the hamstring injury that has kept him out of Liverpool's last two games, both 1-0 wins, with Brad Jones an able deputy in goal. Of the senior players selected against Anzhi Makhachkala in the Europa League on Thursday, only Glen Johnson suffered a fitness problem, but he will be available at Goodison. "He just felt a little spasm but he is fine. It was precaution and I didn't want to risk him," Rodgers said.