This weekend sees Everton host title-chasing favourites Manchester City, as the Toffees also look to keep their slim chances of Champions League football alive for one more game. But it’s a harrowing thought for many Everton fans that any points they take off City would hand the impetus back to Liverpool in the title race.
On paper, it’s both Everton and Manchester City’s toughest remaining fixture. And recent history suggests it isn’t a game that City prosper in either. Everton have won eight of the last 10 Premier League meetings with City at Goodison Park, losing just once.
While Everton still have a mathematical possibility of gaining the final Champions League spot, they’ll be looking to go all out. Roberto Martinez has built a team that has looked rejuvenated. The relentlessness of their recent good form suggests they are in no mood to let up. With a number of players still possibly looking to impress upon their national coaches in times for the World Cup, the Everton players aren’t likely to roll over for the sake of local rivalry.
Leon Osman has allayed the fears that they may be tempted to take their foot off the gas:
“We’re professionals and it’s what we do. It’s a big game at Goodison and we want to enjoy it and win it. A lot of clubs will be watching this game very closely but we’ve got to put all that out of our minds and do what we always do and go into the game to win.”
To be honest, you’d never expect anything other than what Osman has said. Any deep-lying wish for Liverpool to miss out on the Premier League trophy is never going to be aired publicly.
With Tottenham still breathing down their necks, Everton’s players will still have as much to worry about beneath them as they have above. A loss to City would give Tottenham the chance to level with them on points, putting more pressure on the final game against Hull. For all the suggestions that fifth and sixth will be no different, for a club with finances as limited as Everton, every little helps.
If they remain hopeful for the future, finances will be the key. Any chance they have of progressing into the Champions League – as Roberto Martinez promised – could hinge on small details. An extra million here or there could have an immeasurable impact in time.
Martinez has worked wonders so far, and he’ll see the match against City as another chance to show how far his Everton side have come this season. There’s a very real prospect of them breaking the 70-point barrier for the first time in Premier League history, and they won’t be looking to secure this on the last day.
The title race has had so many twists this season, with each contending side having made seemingly fatal slip-ups along the road. It’s Everton’s turn to have a say, and it could be the biggest of all. Martinez’s side have yet to just take it easy. They’re a professional and skilful outfit, so don’t expect them to let up for the sake of rivalry.