Carlo Ancelotti says Everton are primed for a “battle” against West Ham United on New Year’s Day (5.30pm GMT) as he saluted his team’s improved character and tactical versatility.
Everton head into the Goodison Park contest on the back of four successive Premier League victories.
Ancelotti’s side were hoping to sustain their momentum against Manchester City on Monday but the game was called off due to an increase of positive COVID-19 cases in the City squad.
Despite the postponement, the Blues remain within touching distance of the Premier League summit.
Ancelotti says confidence is high within the Everton squad but is expecting a stern examination against a “strong, solid” West Ham outfit.
“I think everyone is disappointed we didn’t play the game [against City],” said Ancelotti, who confirmed Richarlison will be available for Friday’s match but James Rodriguez will again miss out.
“I think also Manchester City were disappointed.
“Unfortunately, they had problems and the Premier League decided to postpone the game.
“We followed the decision and we move forward to the next game.
“The fact we didn’t play against City means we can have fresh legs against West Ham.
“The preparation has been good and I hope we are ready.
“In the last games, we have increased our consistency, above all, defensively.
“We know we can compete. We have improved our confidence and our belief.
“We are ready to be tested again against West Ham and it will be, as usual, a difficult game. Every game is a battle in the Premier League.”
A series of resilient defensive performances have provided a platform for Everton's impressive recent results.
The Toffees have conceded just one goal over the course of their four straight victories over Chelsea, Leicester City, Arsenal and Sheffield United.
Ancelotti paid tribute to his team’s capacity to execute specific game plans and adjust to the loss of key individuals to injury.
“We found solidity at the back after a difficult month in November,” Ancelotti said.
“We are pleased. We didn’t change our style and philosophy, but in some games we changed the strategy.
“Firstly, it is good we have been able to adapt to the fact we have lost important players.
“Secondly, there are opposition teams where, if you concede space on the pitch, you have more difficulties.
“In some games, our block was a little bit deeper than normal and we got good results.
“The fact we are able to adapt is a good sign for the squad.”
Everton top goalscorer Dominic Calvert-Lewin has not netted during the Blues’ four-game winning streak – but Ancelotti explained why the striker has remained a vital component for his team.
“It’s true he didn’t score, as he usually has, but it is also true he was really important,” the Italian added.
“Against Chelsea he was fouled for the penalty and against Arsenal he was involved in the first goal, which was an own goal.
“I don’t have to ask for any more from him. He is still working really hard.”