Liverpool (AFP) – Liverpool will need favours from Manchester City to clinch a first Premier League title in 30 years this week after being held to a 0-0 draw by Everton in a Merseyside derby without the usual fervour behind closed doors on Sunday.

Everton came the closest to breaking the deadlock as Tom Davies struck the post and Alisson Becker saved from Dominic Calvert-Lewin to deny the Blues a first derby win in 10 years.

Liverpool remain well on course to win the league with a 23-point lead over City at the top of the table.

The Reds could clinch the title on home soil against Crystal Palace on Wednesday should Pep Guardiola’s men drop points at home to Burnley on Monday.

However, if City beat the Clarets and Chelsea on Thursday, Liverpool’s next chance will come when they travel to their closest challengers on July 2.

“Both teams showed they understand it is a derby even without fans,” said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. “Intense, physical, all players were all in.”

The visitors began a derby like no other in the unfamiliar surroundings of a Portakabin in the Goodison Park car park before making their entrance from the opposite end of the ground to their hosts as Everton’s tight tunnel leaves little room for social distancing.

“Everyone didn’t know really what to expect,” said Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk. “It was just good to be back out there.”

– ‘Bizarre’ atmosphere –

As with all matches since the Premier League’s restart, players and officials took a knee prior to kick-off, but Liverpool’s Sadio Mane was caught unaware as he made a brief dash down the wing before returning to join his teammates.

Another consistent feature during the first full weekend of Premier League action since March was a slow start as both sides adjusted to the new surroundings of empty stands.

“It was strange,” said Calvert-Lewin. “Playing with no fans it was a little bit bizarre with a game of this magnitude. Normally the place is bouncing so it was hard to get used to at first.”

Klopp left Mohamed Salah on the bench for the full 90 minutes due to a minor injury problem.

Without the Egyptian and Andy Robertson’s positive runs from left-back, Liverpool lacked their usual dynamism as they struggled to break the hosts down.

“We didn’t have enough chances for the possession we had,” added Klopp. “We have to be more clear in the right moment.”

Roberto Firmino dragged the Reds best chance of the game wide in the first half, while Trent Alexander-Arnold and Fabinho tested Jordan Pickford with free-kicks.

But the longer the game went on, it was Everton who looked the more likely side to score on the counter-attack.

Richarlison fired a warning shot as he blazed over after getting in behind.

Calvert-Lewin’s improvised flick then forced Allison into a fine save and Davies’s follow-up effort came back off the post.

Calvert-Lewin then headed just wide from the resulting corner and Allison stood tall to deny Richarlison again as Everton scented a first derby victory in 22 attempts.

“We had two or three opportunities to score. We were a little bit unlucky,” said Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti.

But both had to settle for a point as Liverpool failed to win in the Premier League for only the third time this season.