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Benitez and Moyes do battle again

ESPN staff
December 30, 2012
Rafa Benitez expects a hostile reception at Goodison Park © PA Photos

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Everton manager David Moyes is looking forward to renewing his rivalry with former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez.

Benitez, now interim manager at Chelsea, is set to receive a hostile reception at Goodison Park on Sunday from fans who will not have forgotten one infamous taunt in 2007.

The Spaniard referred to Everton as one of the Premier League's "smaller teams'' after they held Liverpool to a frustrating goalless draw at Anfield.

Overall, Moyes clashed 14 times with Benitez during the latter's six-year spell with the Reds. Everton only managed to win three of those games, all at Goodison.

"It was always tough because Liverpool had a great team,'' Moyes said. "It was always hard to get the better of them. They had a tremendous team, and still have.

"I think he [Benitez] always wanted to be in the Premier League. I think he enjoyed his stint here.

"I think, like a lot of people who come to this country, he enjoyed the honesty and the way the Premier League is played.

"I think he has bided his time to get another job.''

Chelsea have enjoyed a revival under Benitez in recent weeks, and having shored up the back four the Blues have kept back-to-back clean sheets for the first time in over a year.

Having surrendered third place to Tottenham, who beat Sunderland 2-1, Chelsea will be looking to keep pace with leaders Manchester United and champions Manchester City, who both ground out wins on Saturday.

However, they face a tough trip to Goodison Park, where Everton are unbeaten this season. The Toffees have had more than their fair share of draws in recent weeks but remain in the hunt for a European spot in sixth, but can leapfrog Chelsea with victory on Sunday.

"Everyone knows they are good players and the key is the understanding between them is better now and, a little bit, we are adjusting movement and positions," Benitez said. "You can see that the team is improving in defence but also it is creating chances in attack and this balance is the key for a top side - so you have to have more clean sheets but still score goals.

"The main thing for me is that if you have a clean sheet and can score goals, that is perfect."

Form: Everton are unbeaten in their last seven, but four of those have been draws, but boast back-to-back wins over Wigan and West Ham. Chelsea have won their last three after picking up just four points from their previous eight matches. They were forced to work hard for their 1-0 win at Norwich on Boxing Day after romping to an 8-0 win over Aston Villa last weekend.

Key battle: Praised by his manager in the absence of John Terry, Gary Cahill will want to keep proving his worth in the Chelsea backline - he will not be able to rest for even a minute if he is to keep Nikica Jelavic, one of the division's finest poachers, from popping up at some point in the contest.

Player to watch: After a few months to (understandably) adapt to life in the Premier League, Eden Hazard has increasingly shown signs he is ready to deliver on the potential and reputation he brought with him from France. Everton have been warned.

Talking point: Will Marouane Fellaini be moving to the Blues in January. Rafa Benitez refused to answer questions on the Belgian earlier this week - perhaps telling in itself - while Moyes may just be tempted to cash in, after seeing a value-inflating start to the season soured somewhat by Fellaini's suspension-causing antics against Stoke.

Bet of the day: No first half goals in an initially cagey game is 2/1 with bet 365.

Prediction: 1-1.

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