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Fight to the FINISH; Ancelotti INTENDING TO GO THE DISTANCE IN EUROPEAN RACE.

Byline: IAN PARKER

CARLO ANCELOTTI has urged his Everton players to embrace ambition in a battle for European places that he expects to go down to the final day of the Premier League season.

After Monday's 1-0 win over Southampton,

Everton can move into the four if they beat West Brom tonight, although their stay there might be as short as a couple of hours given Liverpool host Chelsea later in the evening.

Everton have been here before this season, though, with a frustrating inconsistency preventing them from really staking their claim.

Ancelotti played down their chances of qualifying for the Champions League after a 2-0 home defeat to Newcastle at the start of February, the first of three consecutive home league defeats which raised questions over their credentials.

But, despite these stumbles, Ancelotti said there was no harm in raising expectations on his players.

"We are pleased to be in the fight," he said. "We have to use our expectations as a motivation. If expectations are high, it is absolutely normal at a club with fantastic history.

"We want to be back there as they were in the past.

"Expectation is not a bad word in my opinion. It is a good word.

Expectation bad word. word. motivated. important "It keeps you motivated. I think it's important to have ambition."

Ancelotti had urged his players to take Thursday's opportunity of "touching" the top four, even if he admitted he had not realised quite how brief it might be.

Carlo

Even if Everton win they would be quickly overtaken should either Liverpool or Chelsea claim three points later in the evening.

"I forgot there was that game and maybe Liverpool or Chelsea can be in the top four, but it doesn't matter," he said.

"We want three points, it is important to stay in the fight.

"I'm sure this situation with the European positions will be decided in the last game and we want to be there until the last game."

Everton will be favourites to take their opportunity against West Brom, but recent defeats to Newcastle and Fulham serve as cautionary tales against sides in and around the battle at the bottom.

It has taken time, but West Brom are showing signs of improving under former Everton boss Sam Allardyce and go into the game on a threegame unbeaten run, having kept clean sheets against Burnley and Brighton in their last two outings.

"I think West Brom are playing now how Allardyce wants them to," Ancelotti added.

"They are strong defensively, strong in contact and show good organisation.

"It is not a coincidence they did not concede in their last two games, even if they were a little lucky that Brighton missed two penalties.

"The defensive consistency is there and to find opportunities will not be easy for us."

Everton benefitted considerably from the return of Allan against Southampton, with the Brazilian midfielder making his first appearance since mid-December.

But, following such a long spell out, his condition must be checked before he will be considered for a second start in the space of four days, while Ancelotti was uncertain if any of the trio of James Rodriguez, Seamus Coleman and Tom Davies might return after missing Monday's match.

Sam dilemma ahead of Newcastle clash

BOSS Sam Allardyce admits he faces a dilemma as he continues to plot West Brom's survival bid.

The Baggies host EVERTON tonight after Saturday's 1-0 win over Brighton kept alive their slim hopes of beating the Premier League drop.

They sit second bottom, nine points from safety, with 12 games remaining and are unbeaten in their last three matches.

Fourth-bottom Newcastle visit the Hawthorns on Sunday and Allardyce concedes he needs to ensure Albion maintain their momentum against EVERTON without jeopardising their chances against the Magpies.

The former Toffees and Newcastle boss said: "If we pulled a draw off against EVERTON that would be a great result and would keep our run going and, because Newcastle are close to us, we could then try to go all out to get that victory.

"We will try to beat EVERTON but I don't think I want to go all out and then throw it all away by losing (against Newcastle).

"The concentration levels against EVERTON will have to be as good as the level of performance we showed against Manchester United.

"I would like to have got - by the end of Newcastle - at least six points (from three games this week).

"When it comes to the end of the Newcastle game we'll have a better idea of where we are and what the difference is between us and fourth from bottom.

"Hopefully by the end of the EVERTON game we can talk about how we have gained more points. We have achieved results but not beaten sides as big as EVERTON, like Manchester United and Liverpool."

Albion have kept as many clean sheets in the last two Premier League games - two - as they had done in their previous 24 top-flight matches.

Robert Snodgrass is back after a knee problem and Semi Ajayi is available after a one-match ban.

Sam

Allardyce has already spoken out against the Premier League's decision to schedule EVERTON's visit this week and knows he has to manage his squad.

"That (team selection) would be letting the cat out of the bag. I've been forced into a very difficult situation," added Allardyce, who managed the Toffees in 2017-18.

"I could be speaking going into the preparation for what should just be the Newcastle game.

"Unfortunately we have to face the task of them (the Premier League) throwing a wildcard into us and saying you have to play Everton.

"We have to manage these two games and better than we have done in the past. Some of our failings have been because of the game load.

"The games are running out, we need more points and we have to deliver." Allardyce

Expectation is not a bad word. It is a good word. It keeps you motivated. I think it's important to have ambition." Carlo Ancelotti
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Title Annotation:News; Teasers
Author:IAN PARKER
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 4, 2021
Words:1011
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