Carlo Ancelotti is seeing encouraging signs in Everton’s effort to tighten up defensively – and insists his team’s draw with Burnley can reignite a European push.
Manager Ancelotti’s side recovered from conceding early at Turf Moor to blunt the home team’s attack and claim one point following Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s 11th Premier League goal this season.
They remain without a clean sheet in the league since winning at Tottenham Hotspur on the opening day.
But in limiting Burnley to three shots on target, Ancelotti reckons Everton showed the necessary desire to protect their own goal.
Chelsea – the division’s second highest scorers with 25 goals from 11 games – will put Everton’s obduracy to the test when they come to Goodison Park on Saturday.
The carrot for Ancelotti’s side is clear: win the match and they’ll close to within two points of Frank Lampard’s third-placed team.
“Defensively it is a sacrifice and in this moment the players are sacrificing more,” Ancelotti told evertontv.
“We were better after the defeat against Manchester United [prior to November's international break], we worked on this and changed the shape a little bit.
“I am positive because I saw the team react really well [after Burnley’s goal], showing a good spirit, sometimes showing good football.
“We have to be ready for this tough period.
“The table could be better… but we are where we want to be.
“We want to fight for a position in Europe and we are there.
“The spirit was good against Burnley, what the players did all together was good.
“I am quite satisfied.
“I was not satisfied with [performances in defeats at] Newcastle and Southampton.
“With this spirit, we would be able to draw those games.
“It was not a win, we wanted to win, but for the performance we have to be positive.”
Everton’s meeting with Chelsea ushers in a period of six games in 16 days.
Ancelotti’s side will contest 15 Premier League points, in addition to a Carabao Cup quarter-final against Manchester United.
They could conceivably be embarking on the forthcoming hectic period following a victory.
Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope, excellent throughout the weekend's match, denied Gylfi Sigurdsson one-on-one in stoppage time.
“Gylfi was unlucky, it was fantastic movement and a fantastic pass [from James Rodriguez] and a great save,” agreed Ancelotti.
Everton had other opportunities, with James and Calvert-Lewin thwarted by Pope.
Burnley, meanwhile, had to rely on a handful of set-pieces to cause problems, other than a chance for Chris Wood at 1-0 which Jordan Pickford brilliantly repelled.
“Jordan is showing more confidence and with more confidence he is able to show his quality,” confirmed Ancelotti, who also saw his keeper paw out a Wood header after half-time.
Everton’s containing job was all the more notable for having Alex Iwobi and Ben Godfrey operating as full-backs following a first-half defensive reshuffle.
“We did better with four at the back, with two players not used to playing right-back and left-back,” continued Ancelotti, who revealed Everton were waiting on news of Fabian Delph after a hamstring injury forced the Englishman's early departure against Burnley.
“But we were really better because the performances of [centre-backs] Yerry Mina and Michael Keane were really good,
“Alex did well offensively and Ben had a good performance on the left.
“But the two centre-backs were really good.
“Burnley play a lot of balls for their centre-forwards and they [Mina and Keane] did well avoiding unnecessary fouls.
“Their performances were, honestly, very good.
“In the end, our performance was acceptable, it was a good performance: not top but not bad.”