Everton have put themselves in contention for a Champions League place heading into the final third of the Premier League campaign. Results such as their 1-0 triumph over Southampton proved that the Toffees can grind out results even when not operating at the peak of their powers.
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Carlo Ancelotti’s men strung together back-to-back triumphs to strengthen their claim for a top-four spot having previously beaten Liverpool at the end of February, although the odds are still against them in a fierce battle. A handful of teams are in the race for the Champions League, and are separated by a tight margin. Everton are backed in the Premier League betting odds at 7/1 to beat out their rivals to claim a spot in the top four. Ancelotti does have the experience and the quality on his team to achieve the feat, but it will require a flawless effort right until the end of the campaign.
Compared to their competition, Everton have not been free-scoring this season. The club scored 38 goals in their opening 25 matches – only Arsenal had scored fewer in the top half after the same amount of games. Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s form has played a significant role in that success, notching a third of the Toffees’ goals over that period. The England international has been nothing short of sensational and has developed into one of the leading strikers in the league.
However, Everton cannot afford to become too reliant on their star men. Richarlison scored the decisive goal against Southampton and could well have had more goals against the Saints. The Brazilian found the net for the fifth time of the campaign, which is not nearly enough good enough for a player of his calibre. The 23-year-old has some way to go to match his tally of 13 league goals from the previous two seasons. Having a Richarlison firing on all cylinders for the final third of the term would not only ease the burden on Calvert-Lewin, but also on the Everton backline.
Out of Everton’s 13 wins from their opening 25 matches, the Toffees won only four by a margin of two goals or more. Nine victories came via a one-goal triumph, and although it’s pleasing to close out tight games – the margin for error for the defence and Jordan Pickford between the posts is fine indeed. Pickford himself has made a number of high-profile mistakesduring his career at Goodison Park, while the rest of the defence are far from infallible. In the opening two thirds of the season, the Toffees only kept six clean sheets. It’s not a formula for success, but the club are grinding their way towards results and at the end of the day, it’s what matters the most.
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Everton do not have the firepower of the teams around them or a stringent backline. Tottenham have a plethora of attackers to throw onto the pitch, while Chelsea and West Ham are cultivating strength in their defence as their platform for a top-four surge. Other than Calvert-Lewin, there’s not a lot Ancelotti can point at to base his side’s push for the Champions League. It’s a testament to the spirit of the team and the quality coaching from the Italian as was evident in a 3-3 draw against Manchester United. Given those attributes, Everton might just find a way.