Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti does not believe Sunday’s result against Manchester United will be decisive in their challenge for European football.
The Toffees are just five points behind their opponents, who began the weekend in fifth place, after a run of 17 points from nine league matches.
When the Italian took charge on Boxing Day at the beginning of that run, European football seemed a distant dream as caretaker manager Duncan Ferguson had only just hauled the side out of the relegation zone after a terrible spell under Marco Silva.
Now, however, the prospect is tangible and, such has been the upturn in their form, Ancelotti does not see the game against a rejuvenated United as make-or-break for their ambitions.
“I think the fight for Europe is still open and it will be open after the game against United,” said the Italian, whose side are unbeaten in six at home in the league and have won four of their last seven against United at Goodison, including a 4-0 victory last season.
“It doesn’t matter. To win against United will be important for our confidence and (position in the) table.
“Manchester United is a strong team in a good moment but… our house (Goodison Park) is important.
“It gives us more confidence and we can play with more confidence.”
Midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson enjoys a good record against United also, with five goals and four assists in his last nine matches against them.
However, he has not scored since mid-October, partly due to being asked to perform a deeper role than he is used to in midfield, but Ancelotti told the Iceland international not to worry too much about his ongoing drought.
A successful 4-4-2 formation has denied Sigurdsson his favoured number 10 role but the manager sees a future for the 30-year-old club-record signing.
“It is true he didn’t score as many as last year but he has played in different positions, far from the opponent’s goal,” said Ancelotti.
“It is important tactically and technically we can build up from the back more efficiently with him (in midfield).
“Of course we lose him up front because he shoots really well but it doesn’t matter as the expectation I have with him he was able to realise in this period.
“I don’t have any complaints against him, he is doing well and I hope he can score soon – but it is not the most important part of his job now.”
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