Everton can take a big step towards securing a top-seven finish and potentially qualifying for Europe this Saturday, according to Ronald Koeman.
The manager even believes that back-to-back home wins against West Bromwich Albion and Hull City the following weekend will give the Blues a fighting chance of toppling the teams currently sitting above them in the Premier League table.
Following Manchester United’s glory in the EFL Cup final last month, seventh position would be sufficient to secure a Europa League third qualifying round place if this season’s FA Cup winners also finish in the top four.
Everton, currently seventh, are four points ahead of West Brom in eighth, with 11 matches left to go this season.
“I think it’s really important first that this Saturday we get a gap between us and West Brom,” Koeman told evertontv. “That’s the first step that we need to do.
“I’m fully confident that if we get six points out of the next two home games that we will be able to look at the competition above us in the table - but we won’t make the big mistake of not looking at it game by game.
“First [we’ll focus on] this Saturday and we know West Brom are a strong defensive team, really strong at set-plays. It will be a really tough game and we need big support from our fans.”
An indication of the progress made by Koeman this season is that a victory against the Baggies will equal the final points tally of the two previous seasons, 47.
“That’s a big part of what we’ve tried to do this season, to be the best outside of the six big teams in the Premier League. Then we can be really happy about our first season,” added Koeman.
“We know we would like to make the next step but that is more difficult than making this first step. But so far the team is doing well and everyone is feeling positive about the performances. Keep strong at home - that’s the message for the players this weekend.”
Heading into Saturday, Koeman takes plenty of heart from the performances in the Premier League at home since December.
Everton are hunting down a fifth straight Goodison win in the top-flight. "It’s the understanding with the fans,” explained the Dutchman. “The team is more confident and more comfortable at home but that’s come after some good results, like the Arsenal and Man City games.
“Our team knows that they are really strong and opponents know it’s really difficult to get a result out of Goodison Park.”