Following a strong Premier League start that yielded 13 points from their opening five fixtures, Everton suffered a run of just one victory – a 2-0 home win over West Ham – in the following ten matches.
Thankfully for fans of the Toffee persuasion, the blue half of Merseyside have since returned to much happier times with eight victories in their last 13 league games, to give manager, Ronald Koeman and his team a real opportunity to end the campaign with European qualification for 2017/18.
Everton have ten games remaining to define their Premier League campaign, and while several bookmakers are currently offering odds of 100/1 for the Toffees to finish in the top four, it isn’t an unrealistic tip, provided Koeman and his boys can maintain their good recent run. With that being said though, the Europa League is the most likely ending spot when the dust settles at the end of the campaign and here we will look at four of Everton’s key remaining fixtures that will help determine their finishing place.
Liverpool vs. Everton. Saturday 1st April, 12:30 GMT kick-off.
After the upcoming International break, Everton face the short trip across Stanley Park to take on local rivals Liverpool on April Fools’ Day, for the 228th Merseyside derby. This game will have huge significance for both teams – not just bragging rights – and a key barometer for the rest of the season. Everton’s recent record at Anfield is not very good however. You’d have to go back to September 1999 to find the Blues last league win over the Reds at Anfield – Kevin Campbell netted in a bad-tempered 1-0 victory that saw dismissals for Sander Westerveld and Steven Gerrard for Liverpool while Everton’s Francis Jeffers also got his marching orders. If Koeman could manage to turn the tables in Everton’s favour, then the slim hopes of a top-four finish may not be so unrealistic.
Manchester United vs. Everton. Tuesday 4th April, 20:00 GMT kick-off.
Straight off the back of a trip to Anfield, Everton face another stiff away game against Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United in yet another key battle for European qualification. United, despite being on a long unbeaten Premier League run at the time of writing, have dropped many points in home games this season and that could prove very costly to their own top-four aspirations. The Toffees grabbed a late point in the 1-1 draw at Goodison Park back in December through a Leighton Baines penalty after Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave United the lead. Previously, as Southampton manager, Ronald Koeman oversaw a brace of 1-0 Premier League wins at Old Trafford in his two year-stint at St Mary’s, and Evertonians will be hoping the Dutchman can continue the trend here.
Everton vs. Chelsea. Sunday 30th April, 14:05 GMT kick-off.
Everton’s final fixture in the busy month of April sees champions-elect Chelsea arrive at Goodison Park. The West Londoners have a comfortable lead at the top of the Premier League currently, and if Chelsea maintain their cushion, this fixture could possibly be a title-winning party for manager Antonio Conte and his side with just four games remaining. However, every point will be vital for Everton at this time of the season, and whether Chelsea will be crowned champions by the time they arrive on Merseyside or not, the Toffees will be desperate to make sure Chelsea travel south with a defeat.
Arsenal vs. Everton. Sunday 21st May, 15:00 GMT kick-off (subject to change).
Koeman’s men end their 2016/17 Premier League season with a trip to the Emirates Stadium to take on Arsenal in another blockbuster fixture. The future surrounding Gunners boss Arsene Wenger is yet to be decided, but it potentially could be his final game as the Arsenal manager – especially if the Gunners continue their indifferent current run of form. It is impossible to suggest how important this contest could be in Everton’s bid for European football next season – hopefully the Toffeemen will have already secured it before this fixture, here’s hoping!