Carlo Ancelotti has insisted Everton do not need to qualify for Europe in order to make this a good season.
A 1-0 win over Wolves on Wednesday night was cheered on by 6,500 returning supporters but although the three points keep Everton’s slim hopes of European football alive going into Sunday’s season finale at Manchester City, it could not paper over what has been a dismal return at Goodison Park this campaign.
The Toffees have lost a record-equalling nine of their 19 home games this term – the Achilles heel in their bid for a top-four place.
They will head to the Etihad Stadium level on points with seventh-placed Tottenham, knowing that climbing one place would put them into the inaugural Europa Conference League next season, while an unlikely two-place climb would secure Europa League football.
“We are in the fight, the next game might be the most difficult of the season, but it was important to stay there,” Ancelotti said.
“Nothing is impossible, it is really difficult, really complicated, we are playing maybe the best team in Europe. But we have to try.
“If we qualify for Europe, it will be a fantastic season, if we don’t qualify it will be a good season.”
Richarlison’s 48th-minute header proved the difference on the night, but Everton were no doubt helped by the noise from the stands.
Ancelotti himself pointed to the fact that of their six home league wins, three came with supporters in the stands after victories over Arsenal and Chelsea in December during the temporary lift in coronavirus restrictions.
“I hope the new signing in the transfer market will be the supporters in the stadium,” Ancelotti added. “They will make a huge difference next season.
“In the history of the club, our supporters make the difference… it was nice to see them and a totally different atmosphere.”
Defeat for Wolves, coupled with Aston Villa’s win over Tottenham, meant that Nuno Espirito Santo’s side go into Sunday’s match against Manchester United knowing they can finish no higher than 12th after an injury-hit season.
Nuno made five changes at Goodison Park, the most eye-catching of which was a rare start for goalkeeper John Ruddy in place of Rui Patricio, and the Portuguese hinted at more to come at the weekend.
“Several games ago we decided that we wanted to give minutes to all of the squad, especially after so many things that have happened,” he said.
“John started with us. Four years ago we signed a fantastic goalkeeper but he is a big man, I really admire him. He had a very good game – it’s very difficult for a goalkeeper who doesn’t play often to come in and take the game like he did with his presence.
“I’m delighted that John had a good game and we will try to give minutes to all the players, those that are available. We are building things, we had a lot of positives, and we will keep trying to do that in the last game.”