Carlo Ancelotti says European qualification is in Everton’s sights after the Blues’ encouraging return to Premier League action, as he praised the “motivation and spirit” his team have displayed.
Ancelotti’s team followed up a goalless Merseyside derby draw at Goodison Park on Sunday with a 1-0 victory at Norwich City on Wednesday evening.
Everton are 10th in the Premier League, just four points behind seventh-placed Tottenham Hotspur – a position that could potentially secure Europa League football.
Ancelotti acknowledged the Blues did not perform to their highest levels against Norwich but praised his players' application and work-rate after a short turnaround following the clash with Liverpool.
“We have started well after the lockdown and we have to keep going,” Ancelotti told evertontv.
“The players are motivated and this is really good. We have a dream to achieve European qualification and I hope at the end of the season we are able to achieve it.
“The most important part of the Norwich game was the victory.
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“We didn’t play brilliantly, but I knew we didn’t have enough time to recover properly physically.
“I think after three months without matches, it is then very difficult to play every three days.
“The team gave a fantastic effort in the game. We were a little bit slow in the first half but we never lost our confidence or our motivation, and the second half was much better.”
After an evenly-contested opening 45 minutes at Carrow Road, Everton quickly asserted their superiority after the break – attacking with greater speed and conviction.
The Blues’ sustained pressure got its reward 55 minutes in when Michael Keane, exemplary throughout, placed an accurate header past Norwich keeper Tim Krul from Lucas Digne’s inviting corner delivery.
Keane celebrated his effort by holding an imaginary dummy to his mouth, in recognition to becoming a father to baby girl on Tuesday.
Manager Ancelotti revealed he predicted the defender would mark the occasion with a goal.
“Michael celebrated fantastically after he had the birth of a little girl,” the Everton manager said.
“He is really happy. I said to him [before the game], usually when a player becomes a dad, he scores!”
Next up for Everton is a home clash with Leicester City on Wednesday (6pm) and Ancelotti believes his players will benefit from having an increased amount of time to prepare for the match.
The contest kicks off a relentless period of seven Premier League games in 26 days and the Blues manager has challenged his team to sustain their positive momentum.
“We want to play with motivation and spirit, like we played the first two games,” Ancelotti added.
“We have one week before the next game. We are going to recover some players, like Yerry Mina and Djibril Sidibe.
“We play at Goodison Park but, of course, without our supporters it will be more difficult.
“Thankfully, we have not had injuries in these first two games. This is a good sign of the physical condition.
“We will be ready to play against Leicester and hope to achieve another good result.”