Carlo Ancelotti has Europa League qualification fixed in his sights – and insists Everton are ready for a “big fight” until the last ball is kicked this season to realise a "great achievement".
Everton welcome Leicester City to Goodison Park on Wednesday aiming to record back-to-back Premier League victories following last week’s success at Norwich City.
Ancelotti concedes overcoming Brendan Rodgers’ third-placed side represents a “difficult” proposition but is buoyed by what he has seen on the USM Finch Farm training pitches this week.
Everton would close to within one point of Tottenham Hotspur in seventh with a win over Leicester.
The meeting with Rodgers’ team ushers in a breathless period, featuring seven matches in 26 days as 2019/20 reaches its climax.
“It would be a great achievement to reach the Europe League… we are focused there 100 per cent, the players are focused on this,” said Ancelotti.
“It could be a big fight until the end of the season.
“We want to stay there to fight for the Europa League until the last minute of the last game.
“The [long-term] goal, as we said from the first day I was here, is to be competitive and fight for the first four places in the Premier League.
“I have confidence for the future.
“We have a young squad with a lot of players who can improve their quality and confidence.
“Apart from what happens in the market, this team can improve... if we are able to improve the young players we have here in this moment.”
Everton have claimed 22 points from 13 matches following Ancelotti's appointment back in December.
The Italian expects an “organised” Leicester team flooded with lively attackers to threaten his six-match unbeaten Goodison Park record.
But Ancelotti, who has defender Yerry Mina available following a muscle injury, insists his own team is high on confidence after recovering well from two games in 72 hours following the Premier League restart.
Everton returned from football’s shutdown with a Merseyside derby draw, when 19-year-old Anthony Gordon made his full senior debut, before defeating Norwich thanks to a Michael Keane goal.
“We expect Anthony to improve and to use this period he is training with us to increase his quality,” said Ancelotti.
“He has a lot of quality but he is young and has a lot of possibility to grow fast.
“It is important for the young players to have in front of them good examples, as professionals.
“Anthony and the others training with us have those good examples every day on the pitch.
“The fact we didn’t concede [against Liverpool or Norwich] is a good mental sign.
“To defend well is not only about quality, it is the concentration and motivation.
“You have to be able to defend together.
“They [centre-backs Keane and Mason Holgate] did really well and now we have Mina back, so we can improve our ability to defend”.
The city of Leicester has been placed in extended lockdown following a surge of coronavirus cases.
Ancelotti expressed his sympathy for the people of Leicester but insisted measures implemented by the Premier League around the season’s restart guarded against any concern over playing against the city’s football team.
“Premier League protocol gives us the confidence everything will be okay,” added Ancelotti.
“We are not happy for the city of Leicester being in lockdown but we are not concerned about this [from a football perspective].
“We expect a difficult match against a strong team.
“They are fast up front, Jamie Vardy is a really dangerous player, they have really good organisation and are doing well.
“But our moment is good.
“What I have seen this week in training gives me confidence we will play well.
“We recovered well and our physical condition is really good.
“It can be a small advantage that Leicester played on Sunday [an FA Cup tie against Chelsea].
“We are fresh and can play a game with a lot of intensity.”