Ancelotti buoyed by Everton's push for Europe

LONDON • Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti yesterday admitted he missed competing in the Champions League, and the prospect of leading the Toffees into Europe's elite club competition for the first time next season was a "fantastic" motivating factor.

His side are sixth in the Premier League with 32 points from 17 games - two points behind Merseyside rivals Liverpool who occupy fourth place, the final automatic qualifying spot for the Champions League.

However, the English champions have played two games more than Everton and should Ancelotti's side win their matches in hand, they can even draw level with today's opponents Leicester, who are in third on 38 points.

At his pre-match press conference yesterday, the Italian said their next two fixtures at Goodison Park, hosting the Foxes as well as Newcastle on Saturday, would give him a better indication of where they stand.

Having won the European Cup twice as AC Milan boss and once as Real Madrid coach, while helping Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain qualify as league champions, it is a competition he holds dear to his heart.

"I think the Champions League is the best competition in the world. As I said when I arrived here, to take Everton into the Champions League is a fantastic motivation for me personally. It's a great desire," Ancelotti said.

"It will be important for us to understand where we want to be. We want to fight for the top six, the top four.

"We're going to play at home these next two games and after Saturday, we know where we'll be.

"The Premier League is competitive this season. There are teams like us, like West Ham, like Southampton who are not used to staying (in the top six).

"For these clubs, it's really exciting to fight with the usual top teams."

However, Leicester are also pushing hard to make the Champions League for just the second time, following their miraculous 2015-16 league triumph.

Brendan Rodgers' side will not be able to draw on top scorer Jamie Vardy after he underwent a hernia operation this week, although the Ulsterman said the striker would make an earlier-than-expected recovery in around two weeks.

Still, confidence is high among the visitors, with the likes of James Maddison scoring in each of his last four games.

Rodgers is confident of avenging their Dec 16 league loss at the King Power Stadium - their only reverse in their past 12 matches in all competitions - and is expecting "a much better performance".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2021, with the headline 'Ancelotti buoyed by Everton's push for Europe'. Subscribe