Ronald Koeman believes Everton can blow the title race wide open on Sunday by beating Chelsea at Goodison Park and getting some payback for their worst performance of the season.
Chelsea crushed Everton 5-0 at Stamford Bridge in November, the only game this season Koeman claims his team had “no chance” of taking anything from.
But the Everton manager is confident they can atone on Sunday and open the door for Tottenham Hotspur, who could move to within a point of Chelsea by beating Arsenal in the north London derby later in the day should the Premier League leaders come unstuck on Merseyside.
“We had only one game this season when we had no chance and that was Chelsea when we had no chance from start to finish to get one point out of the game,” Koeman said. “It was maybe one of the strongest performances of Chelsea and Everton were poor in all aspects of football. Of course that will be different this Sunday. We expect them to give so much more for this game.
“Our last game of the season is Arsenal away and still we have the possibility to catch them. The title is not done. We know the gap from second to first is four points. What happens this Sunday, yes, can be really decisive about the title race.
“We like to win for our fans, ourselves. If that means the title race is more open, that’s nice for the Premier League but that’s not the reason we like to beat them.
“Tottenham have a difficult game against Arsenal at home, so don’t make the mistake of being focused on games other than your own game. Spurs need to win also.”
Plenty of eyes will be drawn to Everton striker Romelu Lukaku, who has questioned the club’s ambition and indicated that he will not sign a new deal amid talk of a return to his former club Chelsea this summer.
Koeman said he will sit down for talks with Lukaku at the end of the season, when the Belgian will have two years left on his contract, but admitted retaining his best players and strengthening Everton’s attack will be his priority this summer. Lukaku has 24 goals in the league this term but Everton’s next highest scorers are Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas and Seamus Coleman with four each.
“I don’t know, we will see at the end of the season,” Koeman said when asked if Everton could keep hold of Lukaku but he was hopeful the player will not be affected by the links with Chelsea. “I don’t know, we will see. Normally, no. The player always like to show the best of himself.
“First of all we like to keep the best players but that’s difficult. We know that’s difficult. I don’t know at the moment if it’s possible to keep them.
“We need to analyse offensive-wise what we need. We need the offensive players to score more goals, because the gap between Romelu and the rest in terms of goals is too big. Second top scorer is Kevin or Ross with four goals. We have nobody from midfield scoring 10 goals. We need more players scoring goals other than strikers.”
Meanwhile, England manager Gareth Southgate visited Barkley this week to speak to the player after his recent troubles, including being attacked in a Liverpool bar and in print by The Sun columnist Kelvin MacKenzie.
“He [Southgate] saw some players, but I am not the right man to talk about his visit,” Koeman said. “He was here, he saw a training session and spoke to several players. I spoke to him about football.”