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Crystal Palace (A) Sat 31 Jan 2015, 15:00, Barclays Premier League

Jags Applauds Defensive Efforts

@Everton

Phil Jagielka believes Everton’s stubborn defence gives them every reason to be optimistic heading into the Merseyside derby.

Liverpool are fresh from their 6-0 win at Newcastle - but they will encounter a water-tight Blues rearguard that has conceded a measly three goals in their last seven matches, five of which have yielded clean sheets.

With Everton also showing signs of regaining their early-season attacking swagger during Saturday’s win over Fulham, Jagielka believes the Toffees can finish the campaign on a high note.

He said: “It’s nice to get a few clean sheets on the spin, especially at home. It does ease the nerves a little bit. We were going through a stage where we couldn’t buy one so it’s nice to grab them now.

“Hopefully we can carry that on throughout the rest of the season and keep pushing as far as possible.

“We played a lot better football probably for the first half of the season. The pitches were a bit better back then, but Saturday was a lot more like the old us.

“We had some fantastic moves and it was nice to finish one off. It was a great move down the right and Steven Pienaar finished it off.”

Three points at Anfield would not only ensure Everton finish above Liverpool for the second season in succession but also maintain the Club’s pursuit of European football.

Indeed, there is a possibility the Blues can move up to fifth in the Premier League table this weekend, should Southampton surprise Tottenham at White Hart Lane.

“Our job [against Fulham] was to the get the three points and to keep the fight going until the end of the season,” added Jagielka. “If we fall a couple of points or games short so be it, but our job is to keep winning games and sneak in there.

“It’s been difficult and easy at the same time [to stay in top-five contention]. It’s been difficult because the pressure has been on but easy because we have had to go for the wins.

“Last week’s game [at Sunderland] wasn’t the best – there wasn’t much between the two teams but unfortunately we lost. Obviously Fulham was a big game to bounce back and there was only one team who was going to win it.”

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