Benitez calls for unity ahead of Merseyside derby
Rafael Benitez believes the Goodison Park support will be crucial when Everton host rivals Liverpool in the Merseyside derby.
The Toffees welcome rampant Liverpool having failed to win any of their last seven matches; their joint-third longest such run in the Premier League, and longest since 2016 under Roberto Martinez.
Everton sit 14th in the table having collected just 15 points, with only Howard Kendall (13) and Walter Smith (12) registering fewer than Benitez in their first 13 Premier League games in charge of the club.
The Spaniard, who was Liverpool boss between 2004 and 2010 and guided the Reds to Champions League glory in 2005, has also won only once in 10 league games against sides he has previously managed in the English top-flight, as he aims to guide Everton to a second successive top-flight Merseyside derby win for the first time since 1984-85.
Meanwhile, Liverpool arrive unbeaten in their last 10 away Premier League matches against the Toffees and Jurgen Klopp's side have scored at least twice in each of their last nine league games away from Anfield.
Although the form book does not favour Everton, Benitez insists that anything is possible with the Goodison faithful right behind the team.
"A derby is a derby, everything can change," he told a news conference. "It depends on the atmosphere, how well we can do, and the connection with the fans. If we can create a good atmosphere, anything can happen.
"A derby is always special. Here, the passion is massive; we know it's really important for everyone. I want to win and do well, for us as a team it's important to bring back the confidence.
"The fans are intelligent, they know we need them. They're crucial and the main thing for us. I think they will realise how important they are for the players
"We have to stay focused, go back to the principle of defending as a unit. After, we try to play the best way possible on the ball, if we have to play counter-attack then do it."
Benitez's pleas may well fall on deaf ears, however. He was a contentious and, in some quarters, unpopular selection with the Everton fanbase, given his Liverpool connections.
Indeed, while a good start to the season allayed some of those concerns, injuries have hit Everton's squad hard and Benitez has so far struggled to fully adapt.
Should they fail to beat Liverpool, it will mean Everton have won just one game in 10 across all competitions, with that run including an EFL Cup exit at Queens Park Rangers and a humiliating 5-2 home defeat to Watford.
Everton will be able to welcome Richarlison back from suspension while Andre Gomes is available for the first time since September, but Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Yerry Mina remain sidelined.