LONDON • Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti was setting the scene for the latest Merseyside derby against Liverpool today when he trotted out a cliche seemingly used for any match between local rivals.
"In a derby," the Italian said with a smile, "you never know what's going to happen."
Except, that is, on Merseyside.
Everton have not beaten Liverpool in any competition since 2010. They last won at Anfield, the venue of today's FA Cup third-round match, in 1999. The Reds have also not lost at home in all competitions in nearly 16 months.
Liverpool are the European champions and, with a 13-point lead in the Premier League, are almost certain to be English champions for the first time in 30 years.
And, with Everton's last trophy coming in the 1995 FA Cup, it is fair to say it is a very one-sided rivalry.
"Everything has to be perfect; work hard, sacrifice, intensity," Ancelotti said on Friday when asked what is needed to defeat the Reds.
"A normal performance is not enough against them. To beat them, the game has to be complete."
The 60-year-old, of course, knows all about that.
Just last month, he was still in charge of a Napoli team that remain the only side to beat Liverpool this season - 2-0 in the Champions League in September.
He joined Everton in the aftermath of their 5-2 humiliation at Anfield on Dec 4, after which Marco Silva was fired, and his own sacking by Napoli just days later.
NO ROOM FOR ERROR
A normal performance is not enough against them. To beat them, the game has to be complete.
CARLO ANCELOTTI, Everton manager, who has no illusions about the enormous task against the runaway Premier League leaders. in the FA Cup tie.
Napoli also earned a 1-1 draw at Anfield in the return group match in November, the only time Liverpool have not won at home this term. The Italian side also beat them in Naples in last season's Champions League.
Overall, Ancelotti has won seven and drawn one of his 12 games against Liverpool. So, what is his secret to dealing with the current best club in the world?
"To score more goals," he replied, laughing.
He already seems to have had an effect since taking over as Everton's most high-profile manager. He won his first two matches, against Burnley and Newcastle before giving Manchester City a tough game in a 2-1 loss on Wednesday.
His priority was to make Everton harder to beat but the team had 43 shots in his first two games, more than any other in the league.
A busy festive period will help his cause, with his opposite number Jurgen Klopp saying he will make changes after Thursday's 2-0 league win over Sheffield United.
The Reds' record in the FA Cup is poor as well. Since losing to Chelsea in the 2012 final, they have gone past the last 16 only once, in 2015.
Klopp admits he has some tough decisions after midfielder Naby Keita (groin) became the latest casualty before Thursday's win.
Without defenders Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren and Nathaniel Clyne, midfielders Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xherdan Shaqiri, Fabinho and forward Rhian Brewster, they have just 12 senior outfield players, plus new boy Takumi Minamino.
The Liverpool boss insisted that he respects the FA Cup but he would not stop prioritising his fatigued players' health.
He said: "My first job is to respect the players, my absolutely No. 1 job... I try to make decisions because of situations and not because of the opponent."
ASSOCIATED PRESS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
LIVERPOOL V EVERTON
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