Carlo Ancelotti insists Everton are refusing to look beyond Sunday’s FA Cup meeting with Sheffield Wednesday ahead of a breathless sequence of games.
Everton were forced to fight tooth and nail to overcome Rotherham United in a third-round tie that went to extra-time.
Ancelotti, then, is wary of the threat posed by another Championship side and expects to encounter a “strong and physical” Sheffield Wednesday.
Everton welcome Leicester City to Goodison Park for a Premier League game next Wednesday and Newcastle United visit three days later.
But Ancelotti, who can call on fit-again striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, is promising to roll out his big guns this weekend in an attempt to secure smooth passage to round five.
“I want to put out the best line-up possible because we don’t want to think about Leicester,” said Ancelotti.
“The Leicester game is after and we want to move on in this competition.
“We know how important the FA Cup is in this country.
“We had difficulties in the first game [Rotherham], we hope to have fewer difficulties in this game... but in the FA Cup there will always be surprises.
“We don’t want to be the negative surprise.
"We have to approach the game well, we didn’t against Rotherham.
“Sheffield Wednesday is a strong and physical team and want to compete with us.
“We have to be ready for this.
“It is true they had problems with the virus [Sheffield Wednesday haven’t played since their third-round win at Exeter City on 9 January because of a coronavirus outbreak at the club] but they are coming back with good motivation.
“It is important for them and a big challenge to play against us.
“We know this and have to respect it.”
Everton have been without a match since the victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers last Tuesday, an odd occurrence in a squeezed season, and Ancelotti confirmed the fallow period enabled a number of players to reach “better conditions”.
Calvert-Lewin, for one, is fully restored to health following a minor hamstring issue, revealed Ancelotti, who added James Rodriguez has “no physical problems” and is available for both Sheffield Wednesday and Leicester.
Everton’s objective when they do resume their Premier League campaign next week is to remain in the bunch vying for European qualification.
Ancelotti is confident his squad is equipped to last the pace but understands it will be a tall order nonetheless, a point reinforced as he watched a succession of matches over the past week-and-a-half.
“We are convinced we have a good squad for all the season, if players don’t ask to leave and are happy here,” said Ancelotti.
“We are not short – we can manage well [in midfield], knowing Fabian Delph and Allan will be back soon.
“The Premier League is producing fantastic games; unpredictable and competitive games.
“The level improved and there is a lot of teams at the top who are not used to being there.
“In this moment Chelsea and Arsenal are not there – but they will be.
“The level, physically, tactically and technically, is really high, in my personal opinion.
“The quality and intensity of the games is at the top level.
“I watch all the time on the television… it is really exciting to watch all the games.”
Everton’s form of late has seen them enter a few conversations about potential Premier League winners.
Ancelotti’s side’s only sustained dip this term came with three defeats immediately prior to November’s international break.
They returned in resurgent mood, winning six and drawing one of their subsequent nine matches to sit in sixth position, eight points behind leaders Manchester United with two games in hand.
Ancelotti nevertheless dismissed title talk as premature.
“We don’t have the title race in our mind, we have in our mind to fight for the European positions,” continued Ancelotti.
“We are in a good position and want to stay there, it depends on us,
“The title race in this moment is too much for us to talk about, honestly.
“Our focus this weekend is totally on the FA Cup.
“The players are in good condition: ready to play this game and ready to compete in this competition that is important for us.”