So here we are. After one of the most unusual yet familiarly infuriating seasons in living memory, Everton head to champions Manchester City on the final day with their European hopes, somehow, still intact.
That they are is more down to the failings of others than the Toffees themselves. Yet in this strangest of campaigns do not rule out a final twist.
Everton are level on points with Tottenham, though with a vastly inferior goal difference. With Spurs facing a tricky trip to Leicester Everton could jump ahead of them with a draw and secure a place in the UEFA Europa Conference League.
However, even a draw may not be enough with Arsenal coming up on the rails. The Gunners are a point behind Everton and have a superior goal difference so would overtake Everton if they better their result.
The classic ‘Everton, that’ outcome is the Toffees dropping as low as tenth, with Leeds also within sight of the Toffees. After spending the majority of the campaign in the top eight that would be a real blow.
So, in conclusion, Everton have to get something from the Etihad and hope other results go their way.
Unlikely? Yes. But Manchester City have a Champions League final to prepare for and Everton go there boasting their best away record since the mid-80s.
Stranger things have happened.
It is crazy to think that people were doubting Pep Guardiola and Manchester City as late as December.
City were in mid-table at that stage, albeit with games in hand, but a run of 22 successive wins in all competitions put them in contention for an unprecedented quadruple.
The FA Cup slipped away after a semi-final defeat to Chelsea, but a fourth straight EFL Cup was secured, as was a first trip to the Champions League final, while a third Premier League title in four years was sealed with four games to spare.
And to think this has largely been done without a first-choice striker.
Rumours of a bid for Harry Kane or Erling Haaland is a scary prospect for the rest of the league and a sign City are going to dominate for years to come.
So what chance do Everton have? Well, next week’s final against Chelsea will certainly be on their minds so Guardiola will likely make changes.
They have also lost two out of three Premier League games since their title was secured. To that end, this is probably the best time to head to the Etihad.
However, with 10,000 home fans allowed in for the first time in over a year and a trophy lift to follow after the game, there will be an expectation of a decent performance.
Then there is Sergio Aguero, who is leaving the club at the end of the season after a decade in sky blue. He is likely to start, if fit, in what will be his final home game.
We all fear/know what will happen next.
Everton 1-2 Manchester City – FA Cup quarter-final, March 20 2021
Everton bowed out of the FA Cup the last time the two sides met two months ago. They held out for 84 minutes, but late strikes from Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne sent City to Wembley.
Wolves (H) Won 1-0
Sheffield United (H) Lost 1-0
Aston Villa (A) Drew 0-0
West Ham (A) Won 1-0
Aston Villa (H) Lost 2-1
Brighton (A) Lost 3-2
Newcastle (A) Won 4-3
Chelsea (H) Lost 2-1
PSG (H - CL semi-final second leg) Won 2-0
Crystal Palace (A) Won 2-1
Carlo Ancelotti says James Rodriguez will once again be sidelined with a troublesome calf problem. Captain Seamus Coleman will also miss out with an as-yet disclosed injury.
Jean-Philippe Gbamin is still out with a knee problem and is targeting pre-season for his return.
What they said
Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti: “I said we wanted to fight until the last minute of the last game and we are there to fight… with all our motivation and all our energy.
“We know it will be, maybe, the most difficult game [of the season] against the champions but we are confident because we did really well away.
“We had fantastic results against strong teams.
“The motivation is really high, the pressure also, but this is absolutely normal.
“This is the most important game of the season but mentally and physically we are ready.”
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola: “We are going to put players out I decide to win the game.
“We have six days until the final of the Champions League and if one player is
injured, unlucky. They can get injured today or tomorrow, the moment you put the boots on.
“He [Aguero] is incredibly loved by the backroom staff; he’s a very nice person and a quality of the player isn’t necessarily to add anything else because his numbers when he’s got are incredible.
“Sunday’s the last game at the Etihad, I’m sure the fans at the stadium will show our supporters all around the world by giving him a tribute for what he has done so far, - the titles, numbers, performances are incredible.”
The difference between seventh and tenth may not seem much, but it will have a huge bearing on how this season is viewed. Everton have by far the toughest fixture of the teams around them, but if they do slide down the table at the death is was not because of this game, it was the repeated failings at Goodison that let them down.