Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti has urged his players to seize a “fantastic opportunity” when they face local rivals Liverpool in the FA Cup third round on Sunday.
Few will fancy the Toffees to triumph at Anfield given the dominance of Jurgen Klopp’s side in the Premier League this season, not to mention the fact Everton have not won a Merseyside derby away from home since 1999, but Ancelotti sees no reason for fear.
“It is a fantastic challenge but also a fantastic opportunity,” the Italian said. “We are going to play against the best team in this moment, they are world champions so congratulations to them, but this is a fantastic challenge for us.”
Ancelotti has cause for optimism. He lifted the FA Cup with Chelsea in 2010 and is the only manager to have beaten Klopp this season, guiding Napoli to a 2-0 Champions League win in September and picking up a point in the reverse fixture at Anfield in November.
Asked for the secret to beating Liverpool, the 60-year-old offered a shrug and a grin and said: “Score more goals.
“Jurgen is my friend, we have a good relationship and I had the luck to beat him last season as well, although they won the competition.
“At Napoli it was the same, we were able to do a great performance because to beat Liverpool you have to do a great performance, a normal performance is not enough.
“Everything has to be perfect. You must work hard, sacrifice, show intensity – to beat them your game has to be complete.
“You cannot defend for 90 minutes and we do not want to defend for 90 minutes. We want to have the possibility to play our football.”
Following wins over Burnley and Newcastle, Ancelotti suffered his first setback as Everton boss on Wednesday when his side lost 2-1 to Manchester City – a match that also saw both Bernard and Fabian Delph suffer knee injuries which make them doubtful to play on Sunday.
It seems likely Ancelotti will look to field a strong team in the match, while the indications are that Klopp will rotate his side after an intense period which began with the Club World Cup in mid-December before the punishing festive schedule.
“Every derby is a special game,” Ancelotti said. “I know how different this game is. Of course Liverpool is the favourite, but in a derby you never know what is going on.
“We need to have confidence to move on from this competition that everyone knows is important.
“The FA Cup here is completely different to other competitions, different to the Italian Cup for instance.
“The fact that it is the oldest competition gives it a really special atmosphere. There are a lot of surprises in this competition. It’s a really exciting moment, we have confidence to do our best.
“The last trophy that Everton won was the FA Cup. It will be difficult. This is normal, but you can do your best without fear.”