Rafa Benitez will not acknowledge the applause of Liverpool fans in the derby, insisting: “I’m a Blue now.”

The Everton manager was an unpopular choice for the Goodison job in the summer because of his enduring links to the hated club across the park on Merseyside.

But with a huge showdown looming - as his side desperately look to halt a depressing run of form and slide towards the relegation zone - Benitez insisted that is the past, and Everton are very much his future.

Asked if he would acknowledge an inevitable fond reception from Liverpool fans, he replied: “No, I will just try to win the game and get three points for us.

“I think the fans know me, they appreciate what I have done over there and they also appreciate I'm a Blue now and I want to win - and I will try to win.”

Rafael Benitez insists he will pay no attention to his welcome from Liverpool fans (

Image:

Dave Shopland/REX/Shutterstock)

Despite mounting pressure after a run of just one win in 10 games, Benitez spoke at the weekend of his desire to be in charge of Everton when they move into their new stadium.

That won’t be until 2024 at the very earliest, and he insisted he remains confident he can turn around a situation that has seen his side slip out of the top four, down towards the relegation battle.

“I keep the same idea. I did not come here to finish 8th and be happy. I came here to go to Europe. It is a massive project and it may take some time, but I’m sure we’ll do it,” he explained.

“We need a couple of results now to grow in confidence and then bring the players back. Then we will start to make the right decisions in team selections and tactics.”

How should Liverpool line up against Everton in the Merseyside derby? Pick your starting XI below!

Benitez also dismissed his rival Jurgen Klopp’s claim that the derby is too physical, with a withering reply that told the Liverpool boss to get ready for a battle.

Asked if the plan is to play with aggression, he said: “It is to do what we have to do to get the three points. When you are in a bad run you need physicality.”

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