Everton can bolster their Europa League hopes for next season when they meet Champions League-bound Manchester City on Saturday.The Merseysiders, who recorded a 1-1 stalemate with relegation-threatened Wigan Athletic last Sunday, are ruing their typically slow start to the 2010/11 season, especially given they are only seven points from fifth – currently occupied by Liverpool – which carries a Europa League place.
David Moyes’ men – who have racked up 48 points so far – realise usurping Liverpool is unlikely, but have made clear their intentions to hold onto seventh place, and build on it next season.
England international defender Phil Jagielka is determined to make life hard for the Citizens, who are not yet fully guaranteed of Champions League action for next season.
“They’ve got Champions League football on their minds and we want to stay in seventh at the very least,” Jagielka told BBC Radio.
“There are points to play for. We’ve had a decent run against them especially away so it’ll be interesting to see how we get on at home.”
Jermaine Beckford, who has came into the side following Louis Saha’s untimely injury, has netted seven goals this term, and will provide the Toffees their attacking spark up front at Goodison Park.
Influential Australian Tim Cahill and silky Barcelona-trained midfielder Mikel Arteta returned to the starting 11 last week after recovering from respective injuries, and should provide much of the attacking impetus on Sunday.
Manchester City, meanwhile, are relishing the prospect of Champions League football next season, currently occupying fourth place on the table.
Boss Roberto Mancini has overseen a three-match winning streak – including a galvanising 1-0 FA Cup semi-final defeat of arch-rivals Manchester United.
But despite their 2-1 win over basement side West Ham, Mancini warned his troops their ticket to the Champions League was not yet assured.
“I think after what we have done, we deserve to be in the Champions League, but we have another four games – it is not finished,” he said.
City are seven points clear of their nearest rival, Liverpool, and will not want a repeat of the two sides’ clash in December when goals from Cahill and young gun Leighton Baines denied them victory.
And given they still have a potentially taxing FA Cup final encounter against Stoke a week later, they will be eager to consolidate their position with a win over Everton.
The game also represents the first time Joleon Lescott has returned to Goodison Park – and the first time he faces his former side since his big-money transfer to Eastlands in 2009.