Carlo Ancelotti says Everton are using growing expectation as a motivational tool in their quest to convert a promising campaign into one that helps shape the Club’s future.
Everton’s position on the cusp of the Premier League’s top-four places is leading some observers and pundits to talk up Ancelotti’s team as potential Champions League qualifiers.
Indeed, Ancelotti insists climbing to fourth with victory at West Bromwich Albion on Thursday would represent a significant step – regardless of the possibility of being overtaken later in the same day.
The Italian maintains a top-six finish and Europa League qualification remains the overarching goal for his first full season in charge.
But the carrot of Champions League football is dangling with only 13 matches to play.
“We are pleased to be in the fight, expectation is motivation for us,” said Ancelotti, a three-times Champions League winning manager.
“If expectation [on Everton] is high that is absolutely normal for a club with fantastic history that wants to be back where it was in the past.
“Expectation is not a bad word, it is a good word because it keeps you motivated.
“For the career of every player, their ambition is to play at the top.
“The Champions League is the top competition, so the motivation of the players to be involved is really high… it is a step forwards for their careers.
“The players are really focused on what we can achieve.
“They understand it can be an important season, not only for the future of the Club but for the future of every one of us.
“We want to be there [in fourth after the West Brom match], just to see how it feels.
“Three points are important to stay in that fight.
“The situation of the European positions, I think, will be decided in the last game and we want to be there until the end.”
Nine days separated Everton’s defeat of Liverpool from the victory over Southampton on Monday which placed a full stop against a poor run of results at Goodison Park.
Ancelotti’s side are back on the treadmill, now, with a visit to Chelsea scheduled four days after the meeting with West Brom.
The Everton manager is refusing to be sucked into thinking about the date with his former club next Monday, however, with Sam Allardyce's team his sole concern this week.
West Brom are unbeaten in three matches, a mini-run which started with a draw against Manchester United and has featured two clean sheets.
“We are not thinking about Chelsea, we have an important game tomorrow,” continued Ancelotti, speaking in his pre-match press conference on Wednesday.
“I am sure West Brom will be really motivated and we have to be strong and motivated, also.
"We have to pay attention, the consistency of West Brom defensively is there and to find opportunities will not be easy.
"They improved and it will be difficult to find a solution in front.
"Every game is complicated.
“Southampton are on a bad run but it was not an easy game, they have fighting spirit.
“Our run at home was not good enough but that game showed the good concentration and spirit of the team."
Ancelotti reiterated he had “no complaints” over the condensed Premier League programme and would remain wedded to a rotation policy to try to “avoid injuries and keep the players motivated”.
He is waiting to see how Allan recovers from his first 90 minutes in nearly 11 weeks before making a call on the Brazilian’s involvement at West Brom.
If defender Ben Godfrey, features, meanwhile, it would represent a 17th Premier League appearance in 18 games for a player reportedly impressing England manager Gareth Southgate.
“Who is not impressed by Ben Godfrey?” said Ancelotti.
“He is doing really well, we are really pleased and really happy to have him.
“For sure, with his performances it is absolutely normal the manager of England has a look at him.
“With Allan, we have to take care... but his performance was really, really good.
“Allan is always like this… he is not up and down
“Other players maybe have better technical quality but his consistency is really high and always at the top.”