Everton best-placed to claim Champions League berth

Carlo Ancelotti

Everton's fine form under Carlo Ancelotti has seen them transformed from relegation candidates to top-four challengers.

Everton sat 18th on December 5 – when Marco Silva was relieved of his duties – and few would have suggested they had a chance of earning a spot in the Champions League.

However, Duncan Ferguson steadied the ship during his four-game stint as interim boss – winning one and drawing three – before the club made the ambitious appointment of Ancelotti.

Ferguson had immediately restored a sense of pride in the badge and Ancelotti has built on those solid foundations.

With Ancelotti at the helm, Everton have lost just once in eight Premier League outings and currently sit in ninth place.

In a season when the league has been dominated by Liverpool, the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal have been left well behind.

Liverpool are just five victories away from lifting a first Premier League title and will certainly be playing Champions League football again next season.

Manchester City and Leicester, who sit second and third respectively, are also well clear of their rivals, with the latter 10 points ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham.

City’s involvement in the Champions League is, of course, up in the air after being handed a two-season ban although the club are set to appeal.

That leaves just one spot, currently held by Chelsea, up for grabs and potentially seven teams capable of challenging.

Spurs trail Chelsea by a point, with Sheffield United, Manchester United, Wolves, Everton and Arsenal not much further behind.

Everton are only five points shy of fourth place and must be considered as the best-placed team to snatch the final Champions League berth.

This is because they have no other commitments to sidetrack them in their pursuit of a place in the elite European competition for the first time since 2005-06, when they lost in the third qualifying round.

Their rivals – Chelsea, Tottenham, Sheffield United, Manchester United, Wolves and Arsenal – are all still involved in other competitions and are therefore more likely to slip up along the way.

Indeed, some of them – Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal – have European fixtures and FA Cup games on top of their remaining 12 Premier League matches.

The Toffees’ position is unique among sides in the top 10 and it could be argued they are fully in control of their own fate when assessing their run-in.

The next three games will be season-defining for Everton as they take on Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea.

All three of those games come on Sundays due to the fact their opponents have a midweek game in the build up.

Ancelotti’s men should be fresher with a week between games, while Arsenal and United have a three-day turnaround, and Chelsea, who will face Liverpool in the FA Cup, have five days to prepare.

Of course, the ongoing situation with City could even open up fifth spot as a route into the Champions League and that would further bolster Everton’s chances of enjoying a positive end to the 2019-20 season.