Everton host Southampton in the Premier League on Thursday aiming to keep their dwindling hopes of European qualification alive.
The Toffees’ 1-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur earlier in the week left them 11th in the standings, seven points adrift of 7th place with five games remaining.
Anything less than three points this evening would leave Carlo Ancelotti’s side needing a miracle to book their place in next season’s Europa League.
Read on as we preview the game against Southampton and assess Everton’s chances of nabbing a top seven finish.
Past record provides hope
This fixture has been kind to Everton in recent years, with the Merseyside club reeling off a 14-game unbeaten league run at Goodison Park against the Saints.
With that in mind, there are likely to be plenty of punters willing to use the William Hill sign-up bonus to back Everton at generous odds of 23/20 to win this evening.
However, the home side would be well advised not to underestimate a team that currently have the fifth best away record in the Premier League.
Saints defeated Manchester City at St Mary’s in their most recent outing and will undoubtedly be heading to Everton in a buoyant mood.
Season in danger of fading away
Ancelotti didn’t write off Everton’s chances of qualifying for the Europa League after the game at Spurs, but he did admit it that the task is now much tougher.
His cause for the Southampton fixture could be made even more difficult if Mason Holgate and Alex Iwobi fail to shake off the injuries they picked up in that game.
Anthony Gordon is likely to return to the starting line-up after impressing as a second-half substitute against Spurs, while Djibril Sidibe may also feature.
Whoever gets the nod against Saints will need to improve on Monday’s display, which smacked of a team who didn’t believe they could qualify for Europe.
A tale of two strikers
Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Danny Ings have been in fine form for their respective teams this term and will fancy their chances of getting on the scoresheet this evening.
Calvert-Lewin has scored seven goals in 14 league appearances at home, more than another other player in the Everton squad.
Ings has an outside chance of winning the Golden Boot this season, with his 18-goal tally putting him four behind Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy.
The Saints striker has scored on his last two visits to Goodison and will need to be watched closely by Everton’s backline.
Europe still on if Everton win
A victory over Southampton would move Everton just three points behind eighth-placed Arsenal with four games remaining.
With the situation surrounding Manchester City’s participation in the Champions League next season still unclear, eighth place could be enough to sneak into the Europa League.
With Arsenal facing Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool in their next two matches, Everton need to start putting some pressure on them.
Everton’s upcoming visits to Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United, both of whom are in the battle for Europe, may well define where Ancelotti’s team finish this season.
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