Carlo Ancelotti believes his table-topping Everton side will find out just how good they really after facing off with city rivals and reigning Premier League champions Liverpool.
The Toffees have enjoyed a wonderful start to the season, with a 100 per cent record across all competitions including four wins from four in the league.
Saturday afternoon’s Merseyside derby at Goodison Park will provide their stiffest challenge yet but Ancelotti is relishing the chance for his in-form side to gauge their progress against Jurgen Klopp’s men.
The Reds were on the wrong end of a stunning 7-2 defeat at the hands of Aston Villa just before the international break, but still represent the gold standard in the Italian’s eyes.
“I think it will be good for us to have this kind of test. They are the best, they were the best last season and one of the best teams in the world, so it’s a fantastic challenge,” said Ancelotti.
“The message for us is they are going to have an exciting game, it’s a derby. Be confident and be happy to play this game.
“I think the feeling in the dressing room is good. We’ve started really well, we know it will be a fantastic challenge. We are ready for the challenge, knowing it will be the most difficult challenge for us in this moment.”
Commenting on Klopp’s recent suggestion that Everton could be genuine title threats rather than short-term placeholders at the summit, Ancelotti added: “I want to say thanks to him, to be a challenger for Liverpool could be really good for us.
“Of course Liverpool is doing so well. We are, I think, not so far but still far from them. We can have a good test tomorrow against them to see how far we are.”
On Saturday it will be exactly a decade since Everton last defeated Liverpool, courtesy of goals from Tim Cahill and current Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta.
Club captain Seamus Coleman also featured that day and would love to stop the clock on an unwanted winless run. Ancelotti insists no additional motivation has been necessary from the Irishman this week, though.
“He doesn’t need to speak to his other team-mates to show how important this derby is,” he said.
“Everyone knows how important it is.”
As for the shadow of the shock 7-2 scoreline from earlier this month, and the possibility of a big response, the Toffees boss remained unmoved.
“We don’t try to think about what happened in the last game. We think as usual Liverpool is a fantastic team, with a lot of intensity and a lot of quality.
“This will be the opponent we are going to play.”
Ancelotti expects Yerry Mina and Lucas Digne to be fit despite minor fitness scares on international duty for Colombia and France respectively.
That means new arrival Ben Godfrey will likely have to wait for his chance to break a settled back line, with Allan and Andre Gomes pushing for recalls in a competitive midfield.
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