HIS CRITICS have accused David Moyes of a psychological barrier when it comes to Liverpool, but the Blues boss has little time for the barb.
In fact, the Toffees manager has been pointedly relaxed and breezy in the build-up to a pivotal game in his reign, and prefers to focus on the good things going on at Goodison lately.
His last meeting with Kenny Dalglish’s side may have ended on the wrong side of a 3-0 defeat, but Moyes remains unapologetic for resting six players before the Anfield derby, a decision he insists is validated by today’s fixture.
“I continually get told I lose quite regularly (to Liverpool),” he says with a shrug. “I don’t feel that way. If you look at the bigger picture, we have always acquitted ourselves well in the games.
“We have tried to make a fist of them. They have been tough games for me, I have to say. Games against Liverpool have always been hard games. But we have had our results as well.
“We have not gone without results against Liverpool. I am relaxed because of the form my team is in. My team has made me feel quite relaxed. It comes from how my team is playing. I feel good because my team is playing good.’’
From the low of defending his selection after that defeat at Anfield in March, Moyes has experienced various highs as his squad rotation has proved a success.
“I made the decision (at Anfield). I felt we had to try and get to a semi-final of the Cup,” he says.
“At that time I didn’t know who we were drawing in the semi-finals. So to say I put pressure on myself to get through, I made that decision before the draw was made. I didn’t know who it was.
“The Cup was really important to us, yes, it was a quarter-final, we were at home to Sunderland and I thought that at the time was the real big thing for me and I chose to do that.”
Never one prone to displays of emotion, Moyes was nevertheless an animated figure when his side overcame the Black Cats to book their place in the semi-final.
“It meant so much to me and the players,” he says. “The chance to get to a semi-final it meant that it was down to who won on the day. Now if we could win, we could reach another Cup final.”
He concedes the prospect of defeat today is difficult in the least. “I think that the semi-finals are never a nice place, I’m sure, to be put out,” he says.
“I’ve only been in one against Manchester United and I won. I don’t know the other side of it. For a club like Everton, you want to be in semi-finals, competing against the Chelseas, the Tottenhams, the Liverpools, to try to get to the final. You have to get in those positions to give yourselves that opportunity.”
Regardless of today’s outcome, Moyes still feels this campaign could be a qualified success. “As it stands today you would have to say yes. My thoughts might change on Saturday,” he says.
“It might change by May 14 when we finish, I might think different then. I thought that if we finish in the top 10 this year it would be a good year for us in the Premier League with the way things were. We still have to do that.
“But I don’t think Saturday does decide whether it’s a success. Maybe a few weeks ago when we were not in a good League position. We’ve turned our League form round now. It’s the difference between having a good season and a great season, winning on Saturday could determine whether we have a great season.”
Everton will be boosted today by the presence in their side of January arrivals Nikica Jelavic and Darron Gibson, both players he insists will not be daunted by the occasion today.
“They have both made an impact in different ways,” he says. “Jelavic with his goals and bits of his play. Darron Gibson coming in and having grown into the games with us as he’s gone on.
“They will be new but an exciting game for those two as well. Six months ago, Jelavic was in Scotland, playing in really big games, Old Firm games, finals, so he will know all about that. It won’t come as a shock to him.
“If you said to him, you will come here and be in the semi-final of the FA Cup, he would say I’ll have a bit of that. Darron Gibson came in and probably thought I’d not played in any games for the last year or two but now playing regularly in the Everton side that is in the semi-final.
“Both players should get a real lift from it and hopefully both keep doing as well as they are doing.”
He has been thrilled with how his squad have helped the influential pair settle in. “It would be hard for a wrong one to come in here, with Phil Neville especially,” he says.
“Tim Cahill, Tim Howard, do some job to make sure the players settle in quickly, here’s what we do, this is how it works, this is what the gaffer expects, get on with your job.
“The boys took Niki out for dinner, four of five of them. They did the same with Darron. They are very good. Phil knows the qualities as a captain and a leader if he can make things easy early, he knows the team will benefit.”
As a global audience tunes into today’s game, Moyes suspects it will not just be half of Merseyside willing his side on.
“The neutral would want Everton (to win),” he says. “The neutrals look at Everton and see the way we have tried to build the club, tried to develop the team which gives hope to many other clubs. I’m not saying it is the right way but it is our way.
“It has been done with real hard graft. It has taken a length of period - that’s why we have not been in enough semi-finals and finals.”