Between now and the final whistle in tomorrow’s main feature of the Merseyside Derby, you will hear more than enough times ad nauseam how Everton have not only not won at Anfield since the medieval ages, but also that the Blues have not beaten Liverpool since Cro-Magnon man has consistently occupied Europe.
To his credit, Carlo Ancelotti came prepared to the press conference for all of the questions and comments that arise from that.
First off, the veteran Italian manager was asked about the difficulty of retaining a title in a league as competitive as the Premier League, with the wheels falling off of Liverpool’s campaign.
“It is really difficult but it was more difficult for Liverpool because they lost a lot of players in the same position [central defenders]. You are not always able to cover the problems you have all in one time at that position.
“They are still there though, they did really well against Leipzig in the Champions League, they’ve won important games in this period. They are up and down like all the teams apart from Manchester City this season.
“They have more confidence, they got a good result in the Champions League and they are close to moving on. If it’s a derby for us it’s a derby for them also and the motivation will be happy for both teams.”
In the Premier League era, the Derby has been by far the most hotheaded fixture with 22 red cards being shown by referees, with Everton players being recipients of 15 of those. Chris Kavanagh has been named as the match official for tomorrow’s game at Anfield, and Blues will remember that he was the one that sent off Ancelotti after denying Everton a stoppage time winner at Manchester United last season. What was the manager going to do to keep things calm tomorrow?
“It is important to be focused on the game and the strategy, to be brave and to be confident. At the end we are going to play football and Liverpool are going to do the same.
“To compete we are going to have to play to the intensity level they use in their games, and we have to try to find a solution in front because you cannot only defend against them. You have to try and propose something, and we are going to try.”
Many of the ‘Sky Six’ home grounds have been houses of horrors for Everton for years now, but with Liverpool’s home form rocky of late, was this an opportunity for the Toffees to right that record?
“Every derby, every game Everton plays against Liverpool you want to win, of course. For a long time Everton have not been able to win a derby, it can be the right time tomorrow, it could be!
“The right time depends on what we are able to do on the pitch tomorrow, only this.
“For sure they miss the support of their fans, in this regard Anfield was one of the most difficult stadiums to play in, so the fact that the supporters are not there can be an advantage for the away team.
“It’s the same thing that has happened to us and other teams in this season where we cannot have the support of our fans [due to COVID-19 restrictions].”
Everton have been ultra-conservative at times playing against better sides since Allan as has been out injured, but with Yerry Mina out, will the midfielder’s return allow for Ancelotti to set up in a more attacking manner?
“Allan can bring more intensity, more concentration defensively, but I have to say Tom Davies who replaced him most of the time did really well in this situation.
“I’m happy to have Allan back because the consistency of the team is going to improve.
“All the players available [including Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Allan and James Rodriguez] can start the game, or else they would not be available.”
Ancelotti’s first XI should be pretty clear, but he has not been ale to line up them up consistently due to injuries, how disruptive has that been for the manager?
“You have to manager the injuries, above all this season where you didn’t have a proper pre-season and all the teams have had more injuries.
“Of course you want to have all the players available but this is not possible. The progress of the team even with the injuries was good, in my opinion.”