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Day of reckoning will reveal much about Ancelotti's summer project


Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti

Carlo Ancelotti begins his first full season in charge of Everton with a trip to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in North London on Sunday.

He won't have happy memories of his last encounter with Jose Mourinho's team.

It was on July 6 and Everton were showing impressive form after the season re-start.

They'd held Liverpool to a 0-0 draw and beaten Norwich and Leicester.

If Ancelotti's side could maintain that form, European football was being whispered about.

It was certainly a change from worrying about relegation.

Before kick-off, there was just one point between the sides. Spurs were ninth and Everton 11th in the league table.

The most memorable feature of a dull match was the row between the home side's keeper Hugo Lloris and forward Son Heung-min at half-time.

The points were decided in Spurs' favour by an own goal.

Mourinho's battlers went on to secure Europa League football, finishing sixth.

Ancelotti's side struggled, adding just five points in the last five games, finishing 12th.

Neighbours Liverpool finished the season with more than twice Everton's points total.

It's against this backdrop that Ancelotti is attempting to rebuild a side that, as he outlined when he arrived at Goodison Park in December, "can reach a good level in the competition and, hopefully, play in Europe."

Ancelotti is no slouch.

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As a manager, he's won the Champions League three times. And the European Cup twice as a player.

His contract with Everton is for four-and-a-half years. And having assessed his squad, he's begun to fashion a side that he believes will eventually challenge the neighbours for silverware.

While most pundits are expecting another mid-table season for Everton, anticipation is heightened ahead of kick-off by the Italian's signings.

The arrival of Allan from Napoli, Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford) and James Rodríguez from Real Madrid points to a huge injection of ambition, commitment and skill right at  the heart of the squad.

Acquiring the Colombian playmaker, a marquee name in football, underlines Everton's intent. And James is impressed. "The project here is very serious," he says. "Everyone means business."

Ancelotti knows he has work to do. "We have to improve everywhere," he's said.

With Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Brazil's Richarlison as joint leading scorers last season with 13 goals each, Ancelotti will be devising ways of increasing the club's goal tally.

The boss knows how to win domestic titles. In his first season with Chelsea, he completed a League and FA Cup double. And he's also won the league with Milan in Italy, Paris Saint-Germain in France and Bayern Munich in Germany.

With his feet under the table ahead of their last meeting with Spurs, Ancelotti was able to say, "I know very well how the supporters feel about winning trophies. This is our dream, our goal, our expectation, and we're working hard on this."

Sunday's match will give an indication of whether or not that hard work is likely to pay dividends.

But Mourinho has his own agenda to fulfil.

As last season drew to a close, Mourinho announced, "My most important season is the next one. That's my mission."

Having finished sixth, he's dreaming big and planning accordingly. He's brought in Denmark's Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, an Everton target, Matt Doherty, a full-blooded bargain buy, and Joe Hart.

As with Everton, midfield is an area that Spurs have strengthened for the season ahead.

But there's the question of whether the club's record signing from last year, France international Tanguy Ndombele, can begin to pay for his keep.

Mourinho has a big squad and plenty of options.

Even before he made his new signing he said, "We're going in the right direction. We are very balanced. We'll end with a better squad than we have now."

With Dele Alli reported to be looking good in pre-season matches, Spurs should have an effective attacking force with Son and Harry Kane.

With Everton believed to be in the market for a central defender and a left-back, Sunday's clash could be coming a bit too early for Ancelotti's new-look side.

But Ancelotti does have emerging talent in his squad and Jarrad Branthwaite (18) presents a possible centre-back option.

Forward Anthony Gordon (19) has signed a new five-year deal with Everton and is anxious to press on.

Acknowledging the importance of set-pieces to his team, Ancelotti admits, "We've been working hard in training."

Sunday's competitive opener is sure to reveal a lot for both managers.

But, given Everton's dismal end-of-season run, it's Ancelotti who has the most to do.