Everton is not going down quietly. In the battle for the seventh spot in the Premier League, and the entrance into Europe next season that goes with it, the Toffees trail their next door neighbors Liverpool by five points with two games to play for each team.
Although Everton probably could have imagined themselves battling for the seventh spot, they could hardly have even guessed it would be Liverpool of all teams they’d be battling against.
One player is certainly not downplaying the significance of catching Liverpool over the final two games. Tim Cahill told Everton.tv, “It’s massive for us. We’re fighting for Europe and with another place up for grabs, I think it’s pivotal that we win. If we lose than we’re out of the race for Europe.”
This weekend Everton plays first, as they travel to Stoke City on Saturday. A win and they could apply pressure to Liverpool, who doesn’t play until Sunday in the big clash at Anfield against league leader Chelsea. Of course, should Everton lose, and then all bets are off. They must win both games and Liverpool must lose both.
“Stoke are one of the most difficult teams to play against in the Premier League,” Cahill said. “They get the ball into the box at every chance.”
Stoke City manager Tony Pulis, in his pregame press conference, had some complimentary things to say about Everton. “Everton are a club that we should take notice of and look up to, and try and follow,” he said. “You look at the season they have had and obviously it started out poorly, but David has done a terrific job with his players.”
He added, “We know how difficult this game is going to be because they have been outstanding over the last few months, but the lads are desperate to go out there and send the supporters home happy.”
It was announced this morning on the Stoke City web site that the game Saturday is a sellout at the Britannia Stadium. It will be a loud and hostile environment. Stoke is coming off a 7-0 thrashing at the hands of Chelsea, and want badly to avenge the embarrassing loss.
If Everton were to get all three points Saturday and Chelsea were to beat Liverpool, the race for seventh would go down to the final weekend.
Everton shouldn’t expect Liverpool to roll over for Chelsea. Some have hinted that Liverpool would rather see Chelsea win the title over United. Rafael Benitez has scoffed at that notion. He told Liverpoolc.tv, “We have to do our job and not think about anything else. It is important for us to do well and we will try and do it.”
Of course Liverpool still has an outside chance, should they win their final two, of finishing in the coveted fourth spot. But this is highly unlikely. They would have to leap past three clubs, Tottenham, Aston Villa, and Manchester City.
Of course, the possibility exists that Liverpool could go into their game Sunday already having been assured of at least seventh (if Everton loses or draws) and also know that they have all but been officially eliminated from finishing fourth.
If either Tottenham or Manchester City wins Saturday they would go up five points over Liverpool plus have an extra game in hand. Although this scenario doesn’t help Everton, it might be something Chelsea would like to see. In that situation, perhaps Liverpool lets up a little Sunday?
Should Everton win Saturday and Liverpool lose, the final weekend still would loom large for the two clubs from Liverpool. Everton gets Portsmouth at home, while Liverpool travels to Hull City; both clubs drawing teams that are heading toward relegation.
The weekend is shaping up to be a special one in the Premier League. And next weekend could be even more so.