KEVIN MIRALLAS can expect some close attention from Liverpool defenders when he goes running down the wing at Goodison tomorrow.
Not that the Belgian international will be unduly concerned. After all, he was left running for his life on his last derby appearance.
Back in March, Mirallas turned out for Greek side Olympiakos at bitter Athens rivals Panathinaikos, a notoriously hostile fixture known as “the derby of the eternal enemies”.
With Olympiakos leading at the break, the second half was delayed by 40 minutes as home fans inside the Olympic Stadium – away supporters had been banned by Greek authorities to help prevent trouble – attacked riot police and later set fire to seats and threw firebombs.
Fire engines sent to extinguish a flaming scoreboard were also set upon, before the referee eventually gave up and abandoned the match.
“We were winning 1-0 at the time and people were obviously getting annoyed, with the fact we were four points ahead of them at the time as well,” recalls Mirallas. “Everyone was getting worked up and they had to call it off.
“Some of the fans got on to the pitch and were throwing Molotov cocktails – it got really out of hand.
“Bodyguards and lots of security came on the pitch to protect us and we did indeed run for our lives. It could have turned out really dangerous.
“Of course it was frightening, but at the same time also really exciting to play that type of game because if you win it’s a great achievement, and you feel great about it.”
While the friendly derby may be a thing of the mythical past, Mirallas won’t face quite the same issues when Liverpool make the short journey across Stanley Park.
The 219th running of English football’s most frequently played match is the first for the Belgian since his £5.3million arrival in August.
And since walking through the door at Goodison, Mirallas has been primed for the occasion.
“I had those experiences in Greece for two years, and they were very passionate and violent games at times,” he says.
“I think this one will be slightly different. I have been watching the games over here, and the fans in England are a bit more respectful, but I still expect a hot atmosphere and lots of passion.
“In Greece the people are a bit more demonstrative but it will still be hot on Sunday.
“However, I know the people are just as passionate in England and I’m really looking forward to it.
“It’s my first but a lot of people have told me all about. In fact it was the first thing they told me when I signed, the importance of this game.”