Ahead of Everton and Liverpool playing for the 239th time tomorrow — the most played fixture in English football history — manager Rafa Benitez spoke with the media during his customary pre-match press conference.
Tensions have been rising over the last few weeks as Everton are now winless in seven games, with five of those being defeats, and now coming up against their crosstown rivals in peak form.
The away support at Brentford during Sunday’s loss certainly made themselves heard, criticizing the players, management and the Board, including unveiling a large banner that read “We demand Nil Satis Nisi Optimum, it’s about time our club did too.”
Asked about the banner and the fans anger, Benitez said -
“I think it’s a little bit about everything. Now, we are frustrated. As a manager you want to win and do well. It’s a challenge for me, and I can understand the frustration from fans. It’s been some years we are not improving.
“I think that the analysis has to be done in a careful way. The club is spending a lot of money, the club is trying to do their best in every single department. That’s something you can see from the beginning when you come here and everybody’s trying to improve things.
“We started the season doing really well and everyone was happy with that. But because we don’t have good results now, you can question everything.
“I think the club is trying to do their best and we cannot forget one thing. It’s a massive thing, the new stadium, for this club. Everything will change. We have to be sure we continue supporting, we continue to be behind the team, and we continue pushing. We will be better and we want to be better.”
The send-off the Everton players received following the final whistle at Brentford has lent to concerns that the team could face a hostile welcome even at their home ground for the Derby on Wednesday, but the manager sounded confident there wouldn’t be a toxic atmosphere for his players.
“A derby is a derby, everything can change. It depends on the atmosphere, how well we can do, and the connection with the fans. If we can create a good atmosphere anything can happen.
“The fans understand we’ve had issues. We have a better situation, but there are still key players not available. What we have to do is be sure we can get the best from the players, and be sure we improve in the future.
“Hopefully not [create a toxic atmosphere], I think the fans are intelligent and they know we need them. The fans are crucial and the main thing for us. If they are behind the team, you could see the atmosphere in the first game - they were behind the team, and the team was reacting.
“I think they will realise how important they are for the players.”