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Everton have their own Rafa equivalent - but Mags can ruin Ancelotti's away day; BRUCE SLOWLY WINNING FANS OVER BUT STILL PLENTY OF WORK TO DO AFTER MAULING IN MANCHESTER.

Byline: JOHNGIBSON

NEWCASTLE'S immediate job is to try and spoil a world class, hugely decorated manager doing a Rafa Benitez.

Carlo Ancelotti approaches his first away game in charge of Everton walking down exactly the same path once used by Benitez at Newcastle.

Rafa had managed almost exclusively at the elite end of football's pecking order chasing trophies with the likes of Liverpool, Inter Milan, Napoli, Chelsea and Real Madrid.

Then he pitched up at Newcastle and had to show he possessed the stomach to win a relegation battle after second tier promotion.

Likewise Ancelotti has been front man at Juventus, AC Milan, Chelsea, Paris Saint Germain, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Napoli. Now it's the other half of Liverpool - the unsuccessful half.

Has our Italian got the fire in his belly to face adversity, to challenge failure, to work with inferior players to his norm? There is one huge difference of course - Ancelotti has an ambitious, money-spending owner; Benitez didn't. Maybe that was the temptation when considering the job long term.

However can Carlo do a Rafa right from the off and manage successfully outside of the Champions League clubs? Well he's facing an unexpectedly iffy start on the road.

Home comforts are reassuring to most folk and so it is for Newcastle as they see out 2019.

The Magpies unbeaten run at SJP now extends to eight matches since the opening day of the season and the hope is that Ancelotti's Evertonians will go the same way as virtually all others. A first-day single-goal defeat by Arsenal has given way to four victories and four draws which has been the basis for welcome respectability in the league table.

Home form at least reflects well on Steve Bruce (left), originally an unwelcomed replacement for Benitez but in some ways defying public opinion, big odds, and obvious restrictions.

It's an ongoing fight of course never won until the final bell of the season and Bruce, well cuffed at Manchester United, is acutely aware of that.

While Ancelotti gained a narrow debut victory over Burnley before his own fans Newcastle reverted to nature away from home with a Boxing Day KO at Man U. Seven lost out of 10 is very much the other side of the coin to results at St James' Park.

Matty Longstaff's glorious love affair with Man U fixtures was well and truly spoiled after he produced yet another super strike following a surprise call up as Bruce shuffled his pack to accommodate two rapid fire games in two days.

In the end a 4-1 smacking was the sort of horror scoreline suffered at Leicester. A sobering performance amid festive cheer was heightened by individual mistakes of gigantic proportions. Talk of committing suicide.

Andy Carroll was unsurprisingly one of those rested but may we see him here doing a very life like impersonation of our one time robust leader (and Everton legend) Duncan Ferguson. And may it be capped by his first Newcastle goal in what would be an eternity.

It would nicely round off the return of the prodigal son having skippered the side and claimed no fewer than three assists.

Carroll is a throw back to the days when centre-forwards clattered all who dared stand in their way.

He's naturally a very different person to the brash headstrong young lad who departed yesteryear, more appreciative of what the Mags mean and certainly more mature having been rendered vulnerable by increasingly dodgy ankles. Now being fit and well is a bonus in itself and a considerable achievement.

Carroll is seeking a late autumn lease of life in what has been a stuttering career and while he will never again be United's go-to guy for regular goals his contribution to a side of restrictions can still be significant.

United desperately need to bounce back and quickly so cue Carroll, Jonjo Shelvey, and Isaac Hayden after their touchline rest as spectators.

CAPTION(S):

The Toffees have appointed a European Cup-winning, highly-rated and ambitious Continental manager - Carlo Ancelotti - in an attempt to boost their fortunes, as Newcastle did with Rafa Benitez (below)
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Author:JOHNGIBSON
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 27, 2019
Words:683
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