David Moyes is looking forward to renewing an old rivalry with Rafael Benítez at Goodison Park on Sunday but admits he has no idea what reception the Spaniard will receive following his time as Liverpool manager.
Chelsea's interim manager returns to Everton for the first time in more than three years and is expected to be greeted with fierce hostility after describing Liverpool's local rivals as one of the Premier League's "smaller teams" in 2007.
Benítez reignited the feud in January 2009 after a draw between the Merseyside clubs in the FA Cup. But on Friday he said Everton "are doing well", adding: "They've less resources than other teams and are still competing. They are near the top of the table, so credit to them."
Moyes was similarly swift to play down any rift between the pair but has often been on the losing side when Benítez is the opposition manager. During his time with Liverpool Benítez prevailed in eight of the 12 Premier League games against Everton, losing only twice.
"I've got no problems at all. I'm fine with Rafa," Moyes said. "I have met him many times over the years. He has always come to Goodison with really good teams and he is coming with another really good team this time. Facing Rafa was always tough because Liverpool had great teams and it was very hard to get the best of them.
"It was hard to win many games against him. Like a lot of people coming into this country, I think he always wanted to be in the Premier League. He enjoyed his stint here on Merseyside. He enjoyed the honesty of the Premier League. He bided his time for another job and he has got it. I wouldn't say there's more incentive with it being him."
Asked if the "small club" jibe proved a motivating factor for Everton at the time, Moyes added with a smile: "No. I don't think it had any effect whatsoever."
Despite opposition to the Spaniard's appointment from Chelsea supporters, Benítez has steered the club to three successive league victories, including an 8-0 demolition of Aston Villa.
Everton, though, are unbeaten in seven matches and have won their last three league games against Chelsea at Goodison Park. Moyes, who confirmed that he will offer the midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger a contract extension in January, is hoping to strengthen his squad during the transfer window
but believes Everton are in a much healthier position than this time last year.
He said: "I think we had just started to pick up last year and to show signs of getting away from the bottom end but undoubtedly there is less pressure because the team is more settled. I would like if possible to add to give us a chance because we are thin and selection is really difficult at the moment."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © etyek
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