Carlo Ancelotti insists Everton are primed to fight all the way down the Premier League’s home straight in pursuit of European qualification.
Manager Ancelotti will welcome back another wave of important figures for Friday’s meeting with Arsenal – Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Andre Gomes, among them – as Everton approach full strength following a succession of injury setbacks.
Beating Arsenal would move Everton within three points of fourth-placed Chelsea and one behind Tottenham Hotspur in sixth.
Ancelotti, talking publicly for the first time since European Super League proposals surfaced on Sunday, called plans for the ill-fated venture “unacceptable”.
The current European competitions, claimed the Italian, need a reboot.
But they remain at the pinnacle of the sport and qualifying would amount to a “fantastic step forwards for Everton”, in the opinion of their boss.
“Arsenal is a really important game, not decisive but really important,” said Ancelotti.
“It is a really competitive final period of the season.
“I think we are ready.
“It is true we didn’t have a good moment in the past month but now we have a lot of players available.
“We are ready to fight for this final part of the season.
“The squad is much better and I have a lot of options.
“I think we could have done better [across the season] but, honestly, at the beginning, if they said to me, you will be in the fight seven games from the end, I would have signed.
“We have to be satisfied where we are – but keep fighting for these seven games.
“For the future of this club, it [playing in Europe] could be really important.
“It could be a fantastic step forward in only one year.”
Everton go to Arsenal targeting a 10th Premier League away win this term, a fact Ancelotti counts as a measure of progress over his first full campaign in charge.
There were early indicators of an upswing at home last week, too, when Everton rained 18 shots on visitors Tottenham Hotspur's goal but had to make-do with a draw.
To reach double figures for victories on the road, accepts Ancelotti, will require a more subtle and inventive performance than the uncompromising effort that got the better of Arsenal at Goodison Park four months ago.
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HIGHLIGHTS: EVERTON WOMEN 2-1 DURHAM WOMEN
“It is going to be a different game – we defended strongly, the game before against Chelsea [1-0 win], we were really good defensively, so we used the same strategy,” said Ancelotti in his pre-match press conference on Thursday.
“Everton changed in this period, so did Arsenal.
"The attitude was good for a lot of games. But only attitude, against Arsenal, is not enough.
“We need our quality and concentration and strength and ability in front to try to win.
“In this kind of game you need to be strong and aggressive and brave.
“The game against Tottenham was good in this aspect and it gave me a lot of confidence.”
Should Everton finish in the top four they would compete in a Champions League Ancelotti admits has its imperfections.
The former Real Madrid boss, who has won the prize three times as a manager, advocates a careful restructuring of top-level football in a bid to introduce greater equality.
By extension, he was vehemently against the idea of a European Super League, which would have eradicated competition and extinguished the ambitions of all but 12 founding clubs.
“These 12 clubs were wrong, I think they didn’t take into consideration two parts really important to football: the players and managers and the supporters,” said Ancelotti, whose club issued a statement strongly criticising the proposals.
“They wanted to build a competition without sporting merit.
“This is not acceptable.
“In our culture, we were born to have sporting merit.
“If you are better than another team, you have to win to play in the best competition.
“This is what they didn’t take into consideration and they were wrong.
“Everton is a family club, a club where you can feel the love of the supporters.
“Everton, in its history, has taken care, maybe more than others, of its supporters.
“Everton is going to make a decision that takes into consideration the opinions of the supporters.”