Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti believes the compressed nature of this season’s Premier League table can benefit his side.
After a run of seven matches with only one win, Saturday’s victory over Chelsea lifted his side within four points of Wednesday’s opponents Leicester, who have been riding high in the top four for much of the campaign.
That one result showed just how quickly teams can make improvements into their position and Ancelotti has continually stressed – even during their poor run – they were where he wanted them to be.
“It will be an unpredictable season. Every game is really difficult, really complicated, and there are a lot of surprises so it is difficult to say who will win,” he said.
“The table is really compact and fortunately Everton are there and that is good for us.
“We are still not at the same level of these teams, we are still working on this, but the fact we are competing – we competed with Tottenham, we competed with Liverpool, we beat Chelsea – was important for us.
“We are not so far from the top but you have to understand, we are not there and we have to work for this.”
Ancelotti is again likely to line-up with four centre-backs in defence as he will not risk captain Seamus Coleman, returning from a hamstring injury which has sidelined him since mid-October, and instead will hold him back for Saturday’s visit of Arsenal and next week’s Carabao Cup quarter-final at home to Manchester United.
It means Ben Godfrey, signed this season as cover in central defence, could end up playing left-back again having stood in for Coleman on the right.
“He is a good surprise for me because he is showing all his quality and he is a guy with a strong personality, humble with quality, and I think we signed a really good defender,” was the Italian’s assessment.
Everton will also be without James Rodriguez for the second-successive match as the Colombia international recovers from a knock.
However, the Toffees have proved they can win without their influential playmaker after the Chelsea victory.
“He started individual training sessions yesterday. As I said, we have to check him day-by-day,” said Ancelotti.
“It’s not a big problem. When he starts to train with the team, it means he will be able to play. We have to look at him for Saturday or for next Wednesday.”