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Stoke City (H) Fri 26 Dec 2014, 15:00, Barclays Premier League

'Top Four Getting Tougher'

by Adam Clark @efc_adamclark

Everton manager David Moyes believes qualifying for the Champions League is tougher now than when his side achieved the feat in 2005.

Eight years ago, the Blues defied the odds by overcoming the sale of Wayne Rooney to finish fourth - 13 places higher than 12 months before.

That season Everton ended the campaign on 61 points, three clear of nearest rivals Liverpool.

Going into Saturday's visit of Fulham, Moyes' men have already totalled 58 points for 2012/13, with four games still left to play.

The Toffees are also eight points better off than at the same stage last season, a year in which they finished seventh.

And Moyes believes those numbers alone demonstrate how the league has grown more and more competitive with every year.

"The year we qualified for the Champions League, 61 points got us in," he said on Friday. "We're only five points off that just now.

"Does that show you that the Premier League's got harder, that the teams at the top have got better and it's making it much more difficult? I'm guessing it will probably be something like 68 or 70 points maybe to qualify for the Champions League this year. So I think the bar's been raised all round.

"There's a lot of Evertonians who expect and [say] why are Everton not making the Champions League, not making the Europa League? Hopefully that's there to see. You have to find the gap and be able to make up eight or nine points even from where we were seven or eight years ago."

But despite sitting six points adrift of the Champions League and five points behind fifth-placed Tottenham, Moyes refused to write off his side's chances of returning to continental competition next term.

He said: "It tells me that I've got four games to try to get some more points which would mean that we'd finish with a better total than last year.

"And I've always said at Everton that progress is really important. We have to continue to try to make progress.

“We're still in with a shout. I suppose we could still qualify for any of the European competitions yet. But more realistically we've got a chance of qualifying for the Europa League, and we'll do our best to make that happen.”

 Tickets for Saturday's game - one which could yet prove vital in the race for Europe - are available tobuy online here or by calling 0871 663 1878.
 
Alternatively, fans can visit the Park End Box Office at Goodison Park, Everton Two in Liverpool One or TicketQuarter in Queen Square.

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