Competition for European football this season seems to be hotter than ever with several sides striving to fill the European places, so what are Everton's chances of making it into Europe next season?
Gareth Barry thinks that Everton should be targeting European football for next season following their 1-0 win over Chelsea at the weekend, and why not - they have just defeated the 2012 Champions League winners.
The midfielder made his debut in the victory at Goodison Park on Saturday and came up with a wonderful challenge to prevent Samuel Eto’o tapping into an open goal to give the visitors the lead, an intervention which proved crucial in giving Everton their first league win under Roberto Martinez.
Now, Barry believes that Europe is a realistic target for the club who he has just signed for on a season-long loan.
‘We want to get into the mix and finish as high as we can. Getting into Europe with Everton has to be a target. And the longer the season goes on, the more we’ll set ourselves targets,’ Sky Sports reported.
Despite losing Marouanne Fellaini, Everton have strengthened significantly in the midfield area with Barry along with James McCarthy, whilst Saturday saw Leon Osman sit alongside Barry for much of the game.
Along with the emergence of Ross Barkley, Everton’s midfield looks in very good shape, and three clean sheets from four games suggests that the Blues’ defence is a lot tougher than that at Martinez’s previous club in Wigan Athletic.
The big aspect for them is goals. Though Jelavic had a big hand in Steven Naismith’s winner at the weekend, his form in front of goal has been disappointing of late, and we have yet to see what effect Romelu Lukaku will have on the Everton. Though if his performances last season at West Bromwich Albion are anything to go by, it should be a positive one.
Yet a lot will depend on the teams around them, Everton realistically should be aiming for no lower than seventh place, and depending on the cup winners this season it could see them enter the Europa League.
They managed to finish above near-neighbours Liverpool last season and there’s no doubt that many Evertonians will want to repeat that feat for the third consecutive season, but Liverpool have strengthened significantly and look as if they will improve on last season, whilst Tottenham, who were pushed by Everton for much of last season, have spent more than anyone in the transfer market.
Arsenal don’t look as if they will drop so far down the league with the improving form of Aaron Ramsey, along with Ozil and Giroud threatening to build up a deadly partnership.
So that leaves the cup competitions, are Everton capable of going on a cup run, and perhaps winning one? Well, cup runs are all about beating a side in front of you over 90 minutes. Everton proved on Saturday they can mix it with the best and come out on top, so it certainly isn't beyond the realms of possibility.
What can Everton do? Try and get 70 points as they can only control their own destiny. And if they achieve that points total they will have done very well, and put up a very good fight, and might just get the reward they are looking for.