In June, following a 103-day hiatus and with all the change – stands covered by flags rather than fans, temperature checks, tactical interventions posing as water breaks, five substitutions and such – the Goodison Park derby persevered and stuck to form.
Seven of the last eight meetings between Everton and Liverpool at the ground have ended goalless, and as one official from the home side joked in the aftermath of their first fixture under Project Restart ‘there’s no new normal, only… normal.’
Regardless of how dominant the Reds have been in recent seasons, Goodison has been the most unwelcome task. That remained true even without the snarl of home supporters four months ago - a clash to endure, not enjoy.
Liverpool never lose - you’d have to go all the way back to October 2010 for their last derby defeat - but sans an ease in the away test.
It has become convention. As Saturday’s early kick-off approaches, however, there is a growing feeling among both camps that the unexpected awaits in keeping with the shape of the new season.
The game marks five years to the day Jurgen Klopp took charge of his first Liverpool match and the manager has to force a reaction after the club’s heaviest defeat in 57 years.
There will be an audience waiting to examine whether the 7-2 humiliation at Aston Villa bred a deeper psychological effect.
Everton, in contrast, have been the standout side in the league thus far and can win their opening five fixtures in the division for the first time since 1938-39.
They last started a derby at the top of the table in September 1989 and boast the current highest scorer in the elite European leagues this term in Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Carlo Ancelotti’s midfield is now a glorious blend of defensive nous and decisiveness with the additions of Allan, Abdoulaye Doucoure and James Rodriguez.
The latter has quickly become a reference point for Everton, extracting more out of his teammates and infusing noticeable belief in them.
Under Ancelotti, Everton were initially more diligent out of possession with greater organisation, but they had lacked true and consistent offensive might to trouble opponents.
Now, their 24 goals in the opening seven games of the campaign across all competitions is the most managed by any side in Europe’s premier divisions.
Everton’s balance, underlying numbers and steel in restricting chances all make for very positive reading and has blacked out their obvious weak link: Jordon Pickford.
He has made 11 errors leading to goals in the top flight since his debut for Everton in August 2017, more than any other keeper during that time.
On Saturday, though, the hosts will have designs on ensuring it is Adrian under the most pressure between the sticks.
Liverpool’s glass jaw currently mirrors their own, but the champions’ overall defensive issues for has provided greater encouragement for Everton.
Klopp’s side have conceded 11 goals in their four league games this season. It took Liverpool 13 matches to concede as many while they swaggered to the title in 2019-20.
They have also lost four of their last eight away encounters in the division, as many as they had in their previous 46 on the road.
And so, the first crucial change is Everton will walk out at Goodison supremely confident of ending their decade-long wait for a derby win, while furthering their own ambitions and adding to the question marks around Liverpool.
In the midst of all the weirdness, the freak results and the feeling that football hasn’t so much lost the plot but lathered it in absinthe, surely there cannot be another 0-0 derby at Goodison?
Surely not in a season which has the highest top-flight goals-per-game ratio since 1930 thus far.