REUTERS - Everton manager Ronald Koeman believes his team have no reason to fear facing Liverpool as the Merseyside rivals prepare to meet at Anfield in the Premier League on Saturday.
Everton, thumped 4-0 by Liverpool at Anfield last season and beaten 1-0 by their neighbours at Goodison Park in December, have failed to win at their bitter rivals since 1999.
"I don't know why. I heard in the last two seasons they were too afraid to play against Liverpool. Why you need to be afraid, I don't understand that," Koeman told reporters on Friday.
Koeman was also critical of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill's handling of James McCarthy after the midfielder aggravated a hamstring injury while on international duty this month.
"The assessment of the Ireland medical team would be that it would be high risk for James to play. When asked to play he said he felt he was fit," Koeman added.
"In my opinion the Ireland manager in this instance was not protecting the player. I spoke to James, he needs to take responsibility... It is not the first time."
Merseyside derbies are often feisty clashes but Koeman called for cool heads this time.
"The players by themselves need to control and focus on the game plan. Do not make stupid fouls and control your reactions. That's up to the player," the Dutchman said.
Everton will be without France midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin, Argentine defender Ramiro Funes Mori and Ireland right back Seamus Coleman after the trio suffered injuries on international duty.
(Reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)