Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp turned up the pressure on Everton ahead of the 226th Merseyside derby by questioning whether they can handle the demands of success at the end of a season.
The Toffees head to Anfield, where they have not won since 1999, with one eye on Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United at Wembley.
This fixture was bumped from its original weekend because of Liverpool’s involvement in the Capital One Cup final but, with FA Cup replays and a run to the Europa League last four, Klopp’s side have been playing twice a week almost all season.
Everton‘s progress in the FA Cup has also seen them require a midweek fixture at Crystal Palace last week but Klopp suggested that was the exception rather than the rule.
And with a crucial weekend semi-final for counterpart Roberto Martinez coming up, the Reds boss is unsure how they will handle this game.
“I know all about Everton and have met a lot of people and it’s a big and very successful club in the past, but I don’t know exactly what the situation is exactly there with the semi-final coming up,” he said.
“They are not used to, at the end of the season, playing two games a week too often.
“Last week they had this situation, this week they have this situation, at the end of these two weeks it is a pretty important game for them.
“But I don’t know too much about them so we should think only about our game, our line-up and understand our situation in the table.”
Klopp has warned his players to keep a lid on their emotions, however.
“It is not like the last thing I will say is ‘Kick them out of the stadium’. Of course not. It is about football,” he added.
Martinez is under increasing pressure after a number of disappointing results but he tried to deflect attention away from his position.
“It is a defining week for our season – I wouldn’t like to go through this season without a defining week,” he said.
“Football is about results and I will never be stupid enough to look away from that aspect.
“The first day I arrived I am the one who brought the expectations, I am the one who drives the hunger and desire to take Everton where we should be competing for silverware and playing attractive football.
“It is about the players enjoying their football and having clarity in what they do and making the fans proud.
“We need our fans more than ever and need to fight every action on the pitch together. “It is not about the manager, that is the least of my worries.”