Roberto Martínez believes Everton's fifth-round tie against Swansea City can shape the club's campaign providing they handle the expectation that contributed to their FA Cup downfall last season.
Martínez orchestrated Everton's elimination from the competition last term when his Wigan Athletic team won 3-0 at Goodison Park in the quarter-finals en route to beating Manchester City in the final. Wigan's win extended Everton's wait for a trophy into a 19th year and ended David Moyes' last chance of a trophy in 11 years as manager.
Moyes' successor, who admits Everton struggled with that burden against Wigan, has warned his players must overcome a similar pressure when Garry Monk's team visit on Sunday . "I don't think Everton were complacent against Wigan," said Martínez. "But I thought there was a real feeling of responsibility on them, of wanting to get to Wembley, and that probably affected them at the start of the game. We scored three goals and it became very difficult. What you need to be careful of in cup competitions, when you're playing at home and you are favourites, is coping with that feeling.
"You can be too relaxed or too tense going into a game that you are expected to win so it is crucial to find that happy medium. I feel the dressing room has got something special and we can react and face adversity in an incredible manner, as we've shown in the last few weeks. The way we want to play and the way we want to win games is clear. We want to keep polishing that and keep getting better so the focus is on that – it is not about winning a trophy."
Everton have lost ground in the race for Champions League qualification after one win in their past four league games. But Martínez believes a positive FA Cup result would benefit their top-four prospects. Asked if he would rather retain the FA Cup or finish in the top four, the manager replied: "Why can't we have both?
"To be honest, I think you have a better chance to get both, I don't think it is one or the other. There is momentum, competition for places and it is better to rotate players when you are winning. I think we could do that but I do feel Sunday is a very, very difficult game. Swansea will come with a good mentality, nothing to lose, and they are a possession team like us. For us, this is the same as the game last season when Everton played Wigan in the FA Cup, 100%."
Martínez made Monk captain when he took over at Swansea in 2007 and believes his former club have been galvanised by the long-serving defender's appointment as successor to Michael Laudrup.
"Gary was my first big decision as Swansea manager in terms of shaping the squad," said the Everton manager, who could give the loan signing Lacina Traoré his debut on Sunday. "I had to decide on giving him a new contract after he ruptured his cruciate and built the squad around him because he was perfect for the job. It's a nice twist, a nice moment to see him in the opposite dugout.
"The south Wales derby can be as intense as it gets for a manager coming into one of those clubs so that [last week's 3-0 win over Cardiff City] was a great start for him. And the Stoke game after that shows they are going to be a difficult team to play.
"You could see Gary had that leadership DNA of being able to control a group. He is very thorough, he puts a lot of time into everything he does and he knows what he wants. He has a lot of respect in the dressing room."