If evidence were needed that Everton are not a "small club", as the Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez infamously suggested after last season's Anfield derby, then it is to be found at Finch Farm, the glittering new £9.5m training facility in south Liverpool which the club have vacated Bellefield for this week.
Yoga rooms, hot and cold Jacuzzis, three physio rooms – it is one of the best such facilities in Britain and David Moyes included it yesterday in his description of the club's "more positive" outlook on life and his belief that he is lifting the side "back to the way it was round about the Eighties when they were at the forefront of English football."
Moyes admits that three years ago Everton would have needed to rely on a physical approach to the arrival at Goodison of Liverpool. "We've had to try and hold on to [their] shirt-tails really and ... that's not easy because we can't spend in the same shop as [them]," he said. But things have changed a bit since then. Everton are a more aspirational side these days and with some possibility that Tim Cahill or Thomas Gravesen might be back this lunchtime, Moyes promised, with some confidence, that his team would be offering finesse as well as physicality. "You must make sure you're not found wanting," he said. "But we're also getting the balance right between playing in the right way and competing."
Benitez's "small club" tag – which he admits will earn him a hostile reception today – has certainly been stoking Everton fires this week. Defender Alan Stubbs offered a thinly- veiled riposte when he said of Liverpool's close season outlay: "When you spend that much money – £ 40m-50m – you would expect to be closer [to the top]."
Everton also still have the memories of last year's 3-0 win in the corresponding fixture – Moyes was yesterday remembering the several glasses of wine he drank after that particular afternoon – and if Cahill is fit, his runs from the middle and goalscoring record (three in six derbies) will be unsettling for Liverpool's Sammy Hyypia and Jamie Carragher, who were tested to the hilt and occasionally found wanting against Marseilles and Tottenham in the miserable week before the international break.
At the start of what could be a pivotal eight days, with a must-win Champions League visit to Besitkas before Arsenal are in town, Benitez badly needs Steven Gerrard to start firing and the return of Xabi Alonso –which is a possibility – would also help with a puzzling lack of creativity. Benitez also hopes Fernando Torres will be fit. "I remember the last game at Goodison well. We had 22 attempts and conceded three goals," the Spaniard said. "How can you explain that? Hopefully this year we can have one or two attempts and win the game."
Moyes sees things differently. "There was a time when we were not in a very strong position to win derby games," he said. "Now I think we are."Reuse content