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EVERTON will have to smash the 60-point barrier if they are to secure a return to Europe this season, insists David Moyes.
The Blues currently have 51 points, and sit four points adrift of the top four, with their credentials to break into that elite group facing a stern test against Spurs at White Hart Lane on Sunday.
After that five of their remaining matches are away with Moyes’s men also visiting near rivals Arsenal and Chelsea along with neighbours Liverpool.
And the chances are Everton will have to improve on their best finish under the Scot of 65 points when finishing fifth in 2008, to at least secure fifth place and Europa League qualification this time around.
Moyes said: “We have a tough run-in and with the league table still being tight I am hoping that we can do what we have done in the past and finish strongly.
“With eight games to go last season we had 40 points, this time around we have 51 and if we want to have any chance of getting close to Europe I feel we will certainly have to get above the 60 points mark.”
Everton will have to do without their traditional short break that has previously re-energised their batteries for the run-in.
“In recent seasons I would have looked to have taken the team away to have a few days training in the sunshine, but the way the fixtures have worked I have not found it possible this year,” added Moyes.
“At this time of the season we try to keep the training short and sharp as much as we can. It’s a pattern we’ve followed in previous years and it has tended to work for us.”
Moyes, meanwhile, has revealed Everton are considering becoming the latest team to join the NextGen Series, a Champions League-style competition for under-19 teams across Europe.
The Goodison outfit had to turn down an invitation to join the inaugural competition last year, which was won by Inter Milan with Aston Villa defeating Chelsea in this season’s final in Como on Monday.
And Moyes said: “Both (head of Academy) Alan Irvine and I are very keen to keep developing our Academy and we are considering joining the NextGen Series, which we were invited into when it first started.
“We didn’t feel we had the numbers to be able to cope with more games but it’s something that I would be keen for us to get involved with in the future.
“The experience of European games would be helpful in the development of the young players.”
DARRON GIBSON believes team-work will be the key to stopping “unbelievable” Gareth Bale.
The Blues are charged with limiting the Welsh wonder when they face one of their main rivals for a top four berth at White Hart Lane on Sunday.
And Gibson insists that no individual will be specifically tasked with stopping Tottenham’s footballer of the year contender in the televised clash.
“I think he has been unbelievable,” said the Republic of Ireland midfielder. “He’s won games for Spurs on his own.
“It’s good for English football and it’s good for Spurs but hopefully he is not good on Sunday against us. I think he is up there with the best in Europe at the minute.
“Seamus has dealt with him quite well the last two times he has played against him.
“He’s a great player and I don’t think there is one particular way of stopping him. We’re good as a team defensively and we work hard for each other, so hopefully we will be alright.”
Tottenham’s impressive domestic and European efforts have been led by Bale, who has netted 27 goals for club and country this season.
The 23-year-old has never scored against Everton – a statistic Gibson credits largely to the performances of Coleman in recent meetings.
But whatever impact Bale has on the game, Gibson was keen to stress that Andre Villas-Boas’s third-placed side are far from being a one-man team.
“They’ve got great players in the squad and players coming off the bench as well, so I don’t think we are going to go into the game just focusing on Gareth Bale,” he added.
“It took them a while to get going but they are in great form at the minute. But if we play the way we have been and the way we did against Manchester City, I think we will do well.”
TOTTENHAM’S hopes of clinching a Champions League spot have been hit after striker Jermain Defoe was ruled out for three weeks – because he practised shooting too much.
Defoe, the club’s second-highest goalscorer this season with 14 in all competitions, has a muscular injury and will miss the Europa League tie with Basle tonight and Sunday’s clash against top-four rivals Everton.
Gareth Bale is Tottenham’s leading goalscorer with 22 in all competitions, but Defoe’s injury leaves manager Andre Villas-Boas with only one recognised striker, in Emmanuel Adebayor, who only has four goals this term.
Villas-Boas said: “This is a big blow for us. It is on the muscle that Jermain had a small tear last month but it is on the other side now.
“He will be a big miss because he has shown tremendous quality this season. He probably did it in the shooting exercises that we set up the week before we played Swansea. The discomfort could come from that.
“The injury is probably going to take him out of the next two games – and maybe Basle away in the second leg.
“But if he can’t make Basle away, he should be fit in the week when we prepare to play Manchester City on April 21.”
Despite the loss of such a key player, Villas-Boas remained optimistic about the club’s chances in both the Europa League and the domestic battle for third.
He said: “We have coped with it before, most of the time with good results. It takes him out of the next three games. It’s not that bad. We will definitely have him back for the City game.”