Everton Under-18s boss Paul Tait has urged his side to replicate their intensity in last week’s derby victory when they take on Chelsea in the Premier League Cup semi-final on Saturday.
The Blues go into the showdown at USM Finch Farm in buoyant mood after their 3-1 win over Liverpool six days ago. And Tait wants his players to repeat the high-octane approach displayed against the Reds – and improve their quality in possession.
“We’re confident and excited,” Tait told evertonfc.com. “These games don’t come around too often, so the lads are really looking forward to it.
“We have to play at high tempo, and play with the intensity we did in the derby. But we’ll be looking to retain the ball better – especially in transition. When we won the ball back, we gave it away too easily.”
Everton go into the game in excellent form, having won their last three games. The Toffees sit second in the Under-18 Premier League Northern Division, just one point behind Manchester United.
They’ll be taking on another in-form side though, with Chelsea six points clear at the top of the Premier League Southern Division, and on a five-match winning streak.
Tait is under no illusions as to the size of the task his players face.
“They’ve got a lot of athletic players, a lot of powerful players, but they’re also technically good,” he said. “They can hurt you through the middle, and through the sides with their wing backs – they bomb on with pace and have got good delivery.
“It’s going to be a really tough test but one we’re looking forward to. We want to give it a real go.”
Attitude will also be a key factor if the Toffees are to reach the final, according to Tait, referencing his side’s disappointing FA Youth Cup third round defeat against Ipswich Town at Goodison Park when he says his players “weren’t ready mentally”.
“We didn’t have that intensity that night that I was talking about before - getting after people, playing on the front foot. We’ve tried to do that in this competition. We’ve tried to treat each game as a cup final. Now we’re at the semi-final stage so it’s worked well for us so far.”
The big games keep coming for Tait’s men, and next Saturday they face Manchester United in a top-of-the-table clash. The sides drew when they met at USM Finch Farm earlier this season, but Tait says United may have to take a different approach next week.
“We played them earlier in the season and drew 1-1. They’re a very good counter-attacking team. That might change - they’re at home next week so they’ll have to bring the game to us, so it might turn on its head a little bit.
“But we just want to see the Chelsea game through and, on Monday morning, we’ll start looking at Man United.”