Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti said he has been impressed by his team’s attitude in their first three games since the Premier League’s resumption.
The Blues have taken seven points from the last nine on offer, drawing with champions Liverpool before seeing off Norwich and Leicester.
And with 11th-placed Everton now just three points behind seventh place and possible Europa League qualification, the Italian believes this is providing his players with an extra incentive.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference ahead of Everton’s trip to Tottenham on Monday, he said:
“What I like at the moment is the spirit of the team. The squad is really motivated.
“I think the fact that we have the possibility to fight for a Europa League place is important for them and gives them a lot of motivation. What I liked was the spirit that we showed in these three games.”
Everton’s clash with Tottenham presents Ancelotti with the chance to reacquaint himself with Spurs boss José Mourinho, a man he has known since they managed both Milan clubs in the late 2000s.
And Ancelotti spoke glowingly about the Portuguese, who he will hope to get the better of on Monday:
“I respect him as a manager and as a man. He’s a good friend of mine. I hope the best for him. It will be nice to meet him again.
“I met him with Milan when he was at Inter. I have a bad memory from when I was at Chelsea because we went out against Inter in the Champions League, but apart from this I already had admiration for him.
“He’s a great manager. He’s able to read the game very well. It will be good to see him.”
Tottenham, who replaced the sacked Mauricio Pochettino with Mourinho in November, have endured a disappointing season and begin this weekend’s round of fixtures in ninth place.
Spurs, who are one point and two places better off than Everton, have won, drawn and lost one of their three games since the restart, most recently going down 3-1 to Sheffield United on Thursday.
And despite Champions League qualification looking unlikely for them, Ancelotti is still wary about facing Tottenham, who are unbeaten against Everton since 2012:
“They are still a really dangerous team with fantastic players. You have to take into consideration that Sheffield United are also a fantastic team. You can lose there because they’re playing really well, and they played really well against Tottenham.
“It will be an exciting game; an important game for both teams, and we need to do our best.”
Ancelotti also took the opportunity to heap praise on Everton’s young winger Anthony Gordon, the 19-year-old winger who has started two of the Blues’ last three games.
Gordon enjoyed his best game in an Everton shirt so far in Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Leicester, assisting Richarlison for the opening goal, and Ancelotti stressed he is making the starting XI on merit at the moment:
“Anthony is doing well. He’s improving. I gave him the chance to play because he deserved to play, not because he’s a young player or because he comes from the academy.
“We have other young players, but maybe in this period, where all the games are really important for us, it’s a little bit early to give other young players the possibility to play.”
Elsewhere, Ancelotti confirmed Djibril Sidibé has recovered from a knock that has kept him out of action since the restart, but Theo Walcott and Fabian Delph remain unavailable along with long-term absentee Jean-Philippe Gbamin.
As for Richarlison, who was taken off in the Leicester victory due to an ankle injury, Ancelotti expects him to be fit enough to face Spurs:
“We have Sidibé back for this game. Walcott and Delph are out. Richarlison didn’t train today, but I think he will be able to train tomorrow, so he’s not going to have a problem playing on Monday.
“I think he will be fine. He has to train tomorrow and Sunday but I think he’s recovering well from the knock and he’s not going to have a problem.”