Rafa Benitez says victory for Everton in this week’s 239th Merseyside derby would provide a shortcut back to the soaring confidence levels of the opening weeks of the campaign.
Manager Benitez conceded the clash with Liverpool was “massive” – and an opportunity to wash away some of the frustration accumulated over two difficult months.
Everton’s Premier League campaign to this point divides into two halves: a flying beginning when 13 points from seven games lifted Benitez’s team to fourth, followed by a sequence of six matches when only two points were added by an injury-hit side.
Everton are aiming to extend a three-match unbeaten derby run. And Benitez insists the parochial nature of the fixture, coupled with a white-hot Goodison Park atmosphere, could serve as the perfect ingredients for a timely uplift.
“It is a massive game for us, we are on a bad run and need to start winning and a derby is always an opportunity to put things right,” said Benitez.
“I am really conscious of what the derby means to everyone and excited because I want to do well.
“As a club and a team, it is really important to bring back the confidence and play at the level we were at the beginning of the season.
“If we do it on Wednesday, I don’t need to say anything [to the players].
“It will be massive for everyone and a crucial point for us in terms of bringing back the confidence.
“If we cannot do it, we have to be sure we are strong enough.
“I have a lot of confidence in this group of players because they give everything.
“I am sure we will do better, especially in the second half of the season, if we have players coming back, or can make additions in January... and the fans will be happy at the end of the season.”
Benitez is steadily welcoming players back from the treatment room but is still short of a full suit for the visit of Liverpool.
There will be no Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Yerry Mina or Tom Davies, while the game comes too soon for Andre Gomes following the Portuguese’s return to training.
Abdoulaye Docuoure made a first appearance in six weeks at Brentford on Sunday. Demarai Gray, who came off the bench in west London, is available to figure from the start and there is a return from suspension for Richarlison.
Benitez understands – and shares – the frustrations over his team stalling in the recent period. But the Spaniard insists nothing is being left to chance in terms of trying to inspire a change of fortunes.
“The Club has spent money and is trying to do the best in every single department,” said Benitez. “Everyone is trying to improve things. Everyone was happy with the start of the season, but because we haven’t had good results lately people are starting to question everything… we will get better and we want to be better.
“The problem has been missing key players in key games. This stopped us performing at the level we were at the start of the season.
“Now, we are managing a situation that isn’t easy. The results have not been good enough. Normally, you lose confidence but, hopefully, we can start winning on Wednesday and go back to what we were doing at the beginning - the team working hard and winning games.”
Everton left the field at Brentford rueing a lack of cutting edge after setting up camp in the hosts’ half for the second 45 minutes without conjuring an equaliser.
Adding bodies to attack is crucial for improvement in that area, admits Benitez, who expects his players to profit from Evertonians turning up the volume inside Goodison on Wednesday.
“We were pushing and attacking enough to score one or two [at Brentford],” added Benitez.
“The people around the box, the wingers and strikers, have to get inside.
“We have this determination, sometimes, but have to be sure we have more players in the box trying to score.
“The fans are intelligent and know we need them.
“They will realise how important they are for the players
“It is a derby and I am sure they will be behind the team.”