Rafa: New boys understand derby

Lunchtime tomorrow sees the real football get back underway again and the matches don’t come much more fired up than the Merseyside derby. Tomorrow’s clash is at Goodison, with hosts Everton fired up for what is arguably their biggest game of the season. I say arguably because Evertonians always have something to argue about when it comes to derbies.

Rafael Benítez says that although his new signings haven’t played in a Merseyside derby before, they’ve enough experience of playing in big games at other clubs to have at least an idea of what to expect. He said: “The players may not have played in this game before, but they have enough experience and know what it will be like. Fabio Aurelio and Mark Gonzalez have played in the Nou Camp and the Bernabau Stadium, so they’re well aware what it’s like to play in an intense atmosphere.”

He continued: “Valencia versus Villarreal is also a big deal in Spain, and Fabio has played in many of those games. Gonzalez will tell you the crowd in Chile is as loud as anywhere in the world. The passion in South American football is very similar to England, so it’s not going to be a new experience for him.”

Pointing out three other new signing and their big-game experience, Rafa says it’s not an issue: “Dirk Kuyt has played many big games in Holland, and Jermaine Pennant and Craig Bellamy are used to playing derby games at other clubs. So the fact we have many players new to the derby won’t be important.”