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Carlo Ancelotti got his first taste of the Merseyside Derby in January when his Everton side were bounced out of the FA Cup. Now he'll get his first taste of what should be a full-strength Liverpool on Sunday when the teams meet at Goodison Park for their 236th all-time meeting.
Ancelotti is connected to both of the Toffees' losses to their eternal rivals this term. Marco Silva's final scenes of his tenure at Everton that led to Ancelotti's hiring came at Anfield in December, when Liverpool ran riot in a 5-2 victory.
The Italian gaffer saw a much different Liverpool side than the one Silva faced, as Reds counterpart Jurgen Klopp overturned nine starters from the previous match as a quality strike by then 18-year-old Curtis Jones in the 71st minute separated the sides in a 1-0 victory on the red side of the city Jan. 5.
Despite the upheaval, uneven play, and COVID-induced recess, Everton (10-7-12) still harbour darkhorse European ambitions. They enter this match nine points out of fifth place - which could carry the final Champions League berth pending Manchester City's appeal of UEFA's two-year ban in the Court of Arbitration for Sport and seven adrift of sixth.
Those dreams, however, are secondary to Ancelotti and the Blues ending a 21-match winless streak (0-10-11) in all competitions against their neighbours that dates back to a 2-0 victory Oct. 17, 2010 in which current Arsenal manager Mikael Arteta scored.
The victory drought at Goodison Park in that span is seven contests, with six of them ending in draws. Everton have also played their customary role as sleeping leviathans against the Big Six this term, winning just once in 10 such matchups. (1-4-5).
"I think we have to play a perfect game, showing character and sacrifice and personality," Ancelotti told Everton's official website. "It will be difficult but we have to consider it as a great opportunity to show our quality and come back to the Premier League with a good performance... to try to win and to do our best.
"Our goal... is to do our best and try to reach a good position in the table and, if it is possible, to fight to play in Europe next season."
Manchester City's midweek victory over Arteta and Arsenal means Liverpool could not clinch their first Premier League title on the grounds of their archrivals. Still, the Reds are champions-elect with a 22-point advantage over the reigning two-time champions and six points from lifting their first league trophy since 1990 in the First Division.
At the time of the recess, though, the fatigue of trying to match Arsenal's "Invincibles" of 2003-04 had finally taken its toll. Liverpool had lost four of their last six games (2-0-4), which included a two-legged sweep by Atletico Madrid in the round of 16 to end their Champions League title defence.
There was also a FA Cup ouster at the hands of Chelsea and their first league loss - a 3-0 defeat at Watford that ended a staggering 44-match unbeaten run (39-5-0) dating back to last term. That loss ended a Premier League record-tying 18-match winning streak and a stretch in which they collected a mind-boggling 106 of 108 possible points in their previous 36 contests.
Klopp has nearly a full squad to choose from, with winger Xherdan Shaqiri still nursing a calf injury. But the gaffer is pleased what he has seen from his side in the run-up to the derby, having played one friendly match and a pair of internal scrimmages.
"We know for a while already that we have no supporters. I answered that question pretty much every day, but my answer cannot change. It's all different but we cannot change that," Klopp told the club's official website. "So we have to use the circumstances, not suffer from that. That means there's a game between Everton and Liverpool, which is still a derby and important for both teams for different reasons. That's what we are looking forward to.
"That the circumstances are like they are, we tried to get used to during the training period in the last four weeks, with playing one proper test game against Blackburn and two internal. And it looked like football, that's very important."
Klopp also did not utilise his first-choice XI in the reverse fixture, bringing Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino off the bench as Divock Origi had a first-half brace and Sadio Mane added a goal and two assists. Liverpool have a 95-66 edge in wins in the 126-year-old rivalry, and the teams have split 74 matches.
The sides have been tetchy of late at Goodison Park, combining for just three goals in the last five matches there. Everton have gone 315 minutes without a goal at home versus Liverpool since Romelu Lukaku equalised in first-half stoppage time of a 1-1 draw in 2015.
Updated June 20, 2020