Burnley, Everton fight for Europa spot

THE fight to be the “best of the rest” in the Premier League and claim the reward of a potential spot in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League continues today when Everton host Burnley at Goodison Park.

The Toffees need to win their remaining two matches and get some help around the league to pip both Wolverhampton and Watford for seventh. There is the chance the Hornets could render this mini-race moot if they stun Manchester City in the FA Cup final at Wembley after the season ends, but at the moment, there is clearly something at stake for Marco Silva’s side.

Everton took at least one point for the seventh time in their last nine league matches, but their scoreless draw at Selhurst Park versus Crystal Palace on Saturday was counterproductive to their needs to claim this Europa League berth. The Toffees were the better side for most of the match, but they lacked an edge in the final third and were left to rue the dropped points after left back Lucas Digne thumped the crossbar in the waning minutes.

Still, there are measurable signs of Everton’s improvement season on season. The Toffees have cleared their 2017-18 point total with two matches to spare and swung their goal difference 20 to the positive compared to last term, and have recorded seven clean sheets in their last nine league contests.

“We were always in a good balance, dominating the game and creating chances. We deserved more but that is part of our process,” Silva told Evertontv as his first season with the club draws near a close. “It (the performance) shows us we are going in the right way.

“Like I said from the first day – it was our goal to do better than last season. We have already achieved it in terms of points. There is a big difference in terms of goals scored and conceded, too. Everything is different, and we want to improve more. My aim is to do things better and better and better.”

The Toffees have a chance to extend a sterling run of results at Goodison Park, having beaten Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester United in their last three home matches. They are also unscored upon in 360 minutes there since Gabriel Jesus’ goal completed a 2-0 defeat to Manchester City on February 6.

The fact Everton enter this match frustrated by their draw versus Palace is a positive according to midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson, who feels his team is coming together and perhaps ready to move onto bigger things next season.

“The players are very happy with the manager and staff,” the Iceland international noted to the club’s official website. “The manager is trying to build something and we are going in the right direction. He is very passionate and likes managing. He works us hard, he is fair to the players and tough on you when he needs to be.

“All the players really enjoy working with him. We have always known what we are capable of, even if some of the results and performances for a period didn’t match our own expectations.” – AP

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