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Everton fans are still celebrating Sunday's phenomenal 3-0 win over Arsenal, which has pushed the Toffees just one point behind Arsene Wenger's Gunners in the race for the fourth and final Champions League place in the Premier League. Manager Roberto Martinez has been lauded for a superb season on Merseyside, and he insists that his side are welcoming the expectations placed upon them as the season draws to a close.
“We embrace the expectations. It’s very difficult to change the perception of which teams are going to challenge for the top four or for the title. The Premier League is the best league in world football due to the competitive edge that it has and for us to be involved in this fight is exactly what we were looking for," said Martinez.
“That’s been down to the good work of the players for the last 10 months, but now we’ve got 18 points to fight for and we’re realistic. Whatever aim you are fighting for, when you go into the final 30 points of the season – that’s the significant time of the campaign to have momentum and be fresh. We have very good momentum, we have terrific competition for places," he added.
One of the key players in recent weeks as been young defender John Stones, after the 19-year-old was drafted into the side for the injured Phil Jagielka. His outstanding displays alongside Sylvain Distin have caught the eye, with a rumoured England call-up in the pipeline, and the former Barnsley man praised manager Martinez for his faith in the young players at the club, including midfielder Ross Barkley and striker Romelu Lukaku.
"He puts a lot of trust in the likes of the younger players, me and Ross and Rom, and that's just a massive confidence boost for us, along with the backing of the backroom staff," he said. "Its a platform for us to push on on the pitch and show what we can do."
Martinez is now looking to strengthen the Everton side this summer, but there could be a returning face as part of those plans after it was revealed that winger Gerard Deulofeu could stay at the club for another year. The Spanish winger, 20, is on a year-long loan from Barcelona, but should the Toffees make it to the Champions League, Martinez could make a bid to bring Deulofeu back for a further year.