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Everton need win against Burnley to continue European charge

Toffees hope to maintain impressive home form

Burnley v Everton - Premier League Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images

There may not be a shiny trophy to fight for in the next few weeks but Everton’s season looks like it is not going to simply drift to a timid conclusion.

The Toffees’ fine form and the disintegration of others means there will be plenty riding on the final six games of the campaign.

Seventh still looks the most likely finishing position I admit, but Everton are now within touching distance of the top six and maybe higher.

If Everton can finish fifth or sixth then that would avoid an early start to next season in the Europa League qualifying rounds.

Arsenal’s collapse has certainly helped Everton’s cause. Their complete meltdown at Crystal Palace gave me flashbacks to last season, when the Everton players downed tools against Sunderland in a result and performance that cost Roberto Martinez his job.

Arsene Wenger will not be going anywhere for now, so there is every chance the Gunners’ patchy form will continue. I doubt I need to tell you who we play on the final day of the season.

Then there is Manchester United. The Red Devils are on a run of nine games in 30 days as they battle on two fronts.

A place in the top four looks a tough ask, so that may see Jose Mourinho switch his focus to the Europa League – with victory bringing a Champions League place as a reward.

That again could work in Everton’s favour, provided they keep on winning.

They have certainly been doing that at Goodison Park, with a 100% Premier League record at home since the turn of the year.

Indeed only them lot across the park have taken all three points from Goodison all season.

Everton v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Some of their football has been a joy to watch at times, with only Barcelona scoring more home goals in 2017 than the Blues.

It has proven to be the bedrock of a productive campaign that has seen greater improvement than perhaps many people expected.

Despite making great strides it remains to be seen whether that is enough for Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley.

Both players’ futures were once again the subject of discussion at Koeman’s press conference this week, with the Dutchman admitting Lukaku has told him we won’t sign a new deal and the Barkley is keen for Champions League football.

Most supporters accept that Lukaku is likely to leave given the noises made in recent months but it would be a significant blow to lose Barkley.

Perhaps we have all been guilty of taking his loyalty to the club for granted and just assumed he would sign a new deal regardless.

Certainly the club’s hierarchy have made an error in allowing Barkley’s contract to dwindle. We can only hope it is now at the very top of their in-tray as the end of the season approaches.

The opposition

As Ronald Koeman intimated in his press conference, Everton’s defeat to Burnley in October felt like a horrendous result at the time. But in the ensuing months the Clarets have claimed many more illustrious scalps at their Turf Moor home.

Sean Dyche’s side were certs for relegation at the start of the campaign. Burnley’s two previous seasons in the Premier League resulted in an immediate drop back to the Championship and there was little to suggest things would be different this time.

Except it was.

As discussed in greater detail in our tactical preview, Dyche has fashioned a well drilled, super fit and well organised outfit capable of picking up results.

The currently sit 12th in the table and all but certain to remain in the division. A feat all the more remarkable when you consider the budget Dyche has had to work with.

Burnley v Everton - Premier League
Scott Arfield scored a late winner for Burnley against Everton in October
Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images

The one black mark on their season so far is the absence of an away win to date, with just four of Burnley’s 36 points earned on the road.

Everton in contrast are looking to win eight consecutive home matches for the first time since 1990.

Well know what will happen next....

Team news

Everton have Ashley Williams available after the defender missed last weekend’s win over Leicester through suspension.

Morgan Schneiderlin is also fit to start after showing no ill-effects following his return from a calf injury.

Everton v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League 2
Muhamed Besic made his comeback this week - but isn’t ready for a first-team return
Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Muhamed Besic made his comeback from a serious knee injury for the U23s in midweek but isn’t yet fit enough for a first-team comeback.

Aaron Lennon and James McCarthy are also still sidelined.

Burnley have Steven Defour available but Johann Berg Gudmundsson is unlikely to be risked.

Final word

This is the type of game Everton have to win if they are to keep up the pressure on the top six. And to be fair they they have brushed past similar opposition at home this season with relative ease, particularly since the turn of the year.

Patience will be key, as Burnley will look to sit back and frustrate. But Everton are more than good enough to pierce the Clarets rearguard.

Anything over than three points here would be a massive disappointment.