Andre Gomes is convinced Everton can finish an “up and down” season at the high point of that rollercoaster by clinching European qualification on Sunday.
Everton need at least a point from their final Premier League game at Manchester City to be in with a shout of competing in continental competition next term.
Midfielder Gomes was a late substitute in the win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Wednesday that ensured Carlo Ancelotti’s team go to champions City with something resting on the result.
That was an 11th league appearance from the bench for Gomes in 2020/21, to go with 17 starts, as the 27-year-old leaves behind a protracted battle for full fitness following a serious ankle injury in November 2019.
And his primary hope, now, is for an uninterrupted and busy 2021/22, with European football in the calendar.
“It was a tough season, with a lot of ups and downs,” said Gomes.
“Europe was our main target and, right now, we don’t want to think about what happened in the season, we are focused on preparing for the last game and trying to reach the goal.
“Manchester City are the best team in Europe, in this moment, I would say.
“I don’t expect them to go easy, they are champions and will want to finish well.
“It will be really tough, especially at their stadium.
“But we still have a chance and will prepare well for the game and try to reach the result we want.”
Gomes completed an improbable 112-day return from the fractured ankle he suffered 18 months ago.
The suspension of football last March stalled the Portuguese’s progress, however, and he had only a condensed pre-season ahead of the current campaign.
Gomes nevertheless began the season in manager Ancelotti’s team and has been in 37 – 82 per cent – of 45 matchday squads.
“There have been ups and downs for me this season, some very good moments and other games I didn’t feel really comfortable with my performances,” said Gomes.
“But that is part of the game.
“We try to improve as much as we can.
“I am feeling really good and want to help the team as much as possible.
“As soon as you come back, when you are fit, everybody creates another expectation – and I created my own expectation.
“I need to keep moving forward.
"The way I felt this season, after that hard period… in my mind it is over, it is gone, it was a long time ago.
“Right now, my expectations are the same as before the injury.
“I tried to be back as soon as possible and was back with some pain in that period.
“But I feel really good and have overcome that problem.
“I am happy to be here and to fight for the next game to try to help the team achieve what we want.”
Evertonians made a timely return to Goodison Park for the meeting with Wolves when defeat would have spelled the end of a top-seven chance.
But Richarlison’s header settled the contest to give Everton a third Premier League win from three in front of fans in their own stadium this season and set up a decisive final-day encounter.
“It was very important for us to win that match… we know Wolves are not in a really good moment but they are always a tough opponent,” added Gomes.
“We had to approach the game in a really serious way.
"Having the fans was unbelievable, we played for so long without them and it is not the same thing.
“After playing with no fans and no atmosphere, even with only 6,500, it was a really good experience.
“I am very happy to have them back.”