By Mark Ogden
David Moyes, the Everton manager believes his team are now much closer to becoming Liverpool's equals than when he took charge of the ailing Merseyside giants over five years ago.
While Liverpool's £40 million-plus summer spending spree secured the services of Fernando Torres, Yossi Benayoun and Ryan Babel, Moyes performed far less expensive surgery on his squad by outlaying about half of Rafael Benitez's transfer fund on the likes of Yakubu, Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka.
But, with only three points separating the sides ahead of today's Merseyside derby at Goodison Park, Moyes says his club are re-emerging as a threat to Liverpool's domination of the city. "When I took over the gulf was vast, but I think we have shut it a little bit," he said. "We were not really in a very strong position, but now we're in a much stronger position to win the derby matches. We've had to try to hold on to Liverpool's shirt-tails really and that's not easy because we can't spend in the same shop as they can.
"In five full seasons I've been here, though, we've had three top-seven finishes. When you are trying to change something around, you won't get it perfect all the time, though. Liverpool have signed players to win the Premier League, whereas we have signed because we want to keep improving, but I think both teams have made improvements from last season."
Everton are without England forward Andrew Johnson following ankle surgery, but Australian midfielder Tim Cahill is available for the first time this season after breaking a metatarsal in the summer.
"Cahill, Thomas Gravesen and James Vaughan are all doing better and there is a chance they could play," said Moyes. "I have to make the decision whether I think it is right or not, but they have trained and they are getting closer."