Everton take on Burnley at Goodison Park on Monday Night Football, looking to extend their unbeaten start to the 2021/22 campaign. Read manager Rafa Benitez's programme notes for the fixture below.
The prospect of my first night match at Goodison Park as Everton manager is exciting – but the occasion will be enjoyable only if our team achieves the right result.
We have done many things well in the opening games this season and nothing needs to change with the players’ mentality, motivation and focus.
The belief in the team is increasing, with everyone beginning to be clear about their jobs. We can manage different situations over 90 minutes and this helped us have good control for a lot of our match against Brighton two weeks ago.
But there are many areas where we can get better and if the players keep working with the same intensity and approach to games, the improvements will continue little by little.
Your patience is so important as we try to build a side to make you proud. In the first match at Goodison Park, we went one goal down but you stayed behind our team.
From this, the players took confidence. They didn’t stop the good things they were doing. Eventually, we scored and showed spirit and quality to win the game, a result we deserved.
In the same way, when the match at Huddersfield became complicated, your support and belief helped us keep fighting and score the goal we needed.
I want to say, also, how much I liked the character and determination of Alex Iwobi when he was hurt against Huddersfield but stayed on the pitch to help his teammates. Tom Davies, too, had a problem in his quadriceps but kept working so hard.
We had our first clean sheet at Brighton and that was important for the players at the back. Some goals we conceded in the opening games could have been prevented. That is the responsibility of all of us – but defenders and goalkeepers gain confidence from clean sheets.
The attackers are doing really well, not only because of the goals but also their overall contributions to the team.
At Brighton, they worked hard to stop our opposition from building attacks in the way we wanted.
The midfielders, as well, were disciplined. Their energy was amazing.
When you put all this together, along with the desire we are showing, the signs are positive. If the organisation and work rate are strong, the chance to win games increases.
Also, from a solid structure, the football can be creative and enjoyable to watch.
Against Brighton, for example, our centre-backs and midfielders were regularly regaining the ball and this meant we could counter-attack with speed.
We have players competing for every position. They all want to be on the pitch and in training the standard is high because they are trying to show the manager they should play.
We welcome Sean Dyche and the staff and players of Burnley.
Everybody knows about Sean’s excellent work for his club over many years and every manager will tell you how difficult it is to play against his team.
They are focused and prepared for everything. We know the game can be physical but Burnley have some quick and talented players who will be ready for any mistakes.
You can see our players are fighting in all the games and this is something we have to try to keep.
After, we need to put more quality on the field. Sometimes, in the early matches, the final pass or action was missing. In the second half at Brighton, it was there more often and that’s when we started to have control.
Again, this is a gradual process and the big changes happen over a long time working together.
We are still very early in our work, with a new manager and some new signings and limited opportunities, so far, for consecutive periods on the training ground transferring our ideas to all the players.
We brought Salomón Rondón into our squad at the end of the transfer window.
He is another player who knows the Premier League and understands exactly the effort and style we want from him.
Salomón’s attitude is everything you want from a footballer. He is prepared to sacrifice and do what is needed for the team – and he fits exactly our idea of how we want to play.
Also, we added Andy Lonergan to the goalkeepers. He is experienced and a top professional and will keep the level high in training.
I have experienced the power of your support in the games I mentioned earlier but also at Leeds and Brighton.
You push and fight for the team however you can in the away matches.
I know it is the same at Goodison and under the floodlights tonight the noise and passion will improve our chances of taking three more points.
Enjoy the game,