Carlo Ancelotti has stressed that Everton must not take relegated Sheffield United lightly when the Premier League’s bottom club visit Goodison Park on Sunday.
The managerless Blades, who won at Goodison last year, will exit the top-flight at the end of this season after a two-year stay, but Ancelotti says Everton must show them respect and expect a tough challenge.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference ahead of a pivotal game in Everton’s quest for European football, Ancelotti said:
“We have to respect a team that was relegated, but is going to fight for this game because they want to finish the season with dignity.
“That is absolutely normal, and we have to pay attention because the home run was not good. We would like to close this season at home with two good results.”
Indeed, after Thursday’s goalless draw at Aston Villa left Everton eighth, they will likely need to beat Sheffield United and Wolves at Goodison this week to keep the European dreams alive.
That will require a drastic improvement in home performances - Everton have only won once on their own turf in the league since the start of 2021.
And while Ancelotti says the team are still aiming for Europe, he believes this season has already signalled progress on last term’s 12th-placed finish:
“It was our target; it is still our target. This means that the team improved.
“But as I said, it will be a quicker step forward [to qualify for Europe this season], but for the next season, we are going to step forward anyway, if we are in Europe or not. It doesn’t change our progression.”
Ancelotti was also asked about whether Ben Godfrey, who excelled again in Everton’s defence at Villa, has done enough to earn a place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad at the European Championships this summer.
Godfrey, 23, has been an inspired signing since joining from Norwich in October, but has yet to earn his first senior cap at international level.
But while Ancelotti would not be drawn on these matters, which are out of his hands, he admitted his surprise at just how brilliantly Godfrey has played since moving to Goodison:
“I don’t know. I only have to say that his season was really good; he was a fantastic signing in the summer.
“He did a season with fantastic consistency while changing position most of the time. He played left back, right back, he played centre back - and every time he did really well. I’m really satisfied.
“I don’t know if he goes to the Euros, it’s not my problem or my decision. All I have to say is that Ben Godfrey was a fantastic player this season.
“I think he has no problems. He showed a fantastic quality and defensive ability. He’s really fast, really intelligent, it’s difficult to find him out of position. I’m really pleased and really surprised for his season.
“I think the best quality that Ben Godfrey has is the speed, he’s really fast and really aggressive with or without the ball.
“He’s tactically good, he can play in all of the positions without any problems, he’s played two months at left back. He’s always good.