Carlo Ancelotti has played down talk of Everton challenging for the Premier League this season, and says not even victory against Manchester City on Monday night will convince him the Goodison Park club are in the hunt for a first title since 1987.
Everton host Pep Guardiola’s side looking for a fifth consecutive league victory following their 1-0 win at Sheffield United on Boxing Day. Yet Ancelotti insists his side’s sole focus is qualifying for Europe next season.
“No,” he said when asked if Everton can challenge for the title. “I think realistically, we have to say no. We are really pleased to be where we are, but I think that our target hasn’t changed. There’s a lot of competition in the Premier League and a lot of fantastic teams. We’re happy to be second, but our target is to play in Europe next season. That hasn’t changed.”
Victory on Monday would move Everton six points clear of City, and further strengthen their position in the top four. But Ancelotti refuses to even acknowledge the prospect of a title challenge even if they make it five successive league wins. “It will be the same,” said the Italian, who marked his first anniversary in charge on Boxing Day.
“We have to be honest with ourselves; we’re not of the same level as some of the teams. We would like to be as soon as possible, and we’re working towards this, but if you ask me today I would say we have to be honest about it. After one year, we have progressed really well and we would like to improve further next season.”
Ancelotti remains without Richarlison and James Rodríguez, with the former still recovering from concussion and the latter out with a calf injury. However, the Everton manager said both are likely to be available for the visit of West Ham on New Year’s Day. “After following his concussion protocol, Richarlison will be ready after the City game,” Ancelotti said. “James, after the City game, he can also be ready.”
Ancelotti also revealed Allan is nearing a return from a hamstring injury, while he has been “really surprised” at Lucas Digne’s recovery from an ankle injury which has kept him out for more than a month, and he could now return by the end of January.