David Moyes believes Everton’s top-four chances are over.
The Toffees had played themselves into contention for a UEFA Champions League qualifying place, after a six-match unbeaten run which included a win against Manchester City and draws at both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. However, a 1-0 defeat at Sunderland, when Stephane Sessegnon scored in first half stoppage time, has dealt them a huge blow.
This defeat leaves the Goodison Park club five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea and two behind fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, both of whom have two games in hand. So whilst it is not impossible for Moyes and his players to gain enough points to overcome their London rivals, he accepts that the loss at the Stadium of Light is likely to have ended their chances.
“I don’t think we can qualify now,” the Scottish coach said on the Sky Sports website. “We had to keep winning and keep on going, and even if we did keep on winning we would still have been outsiders. This defeat means we have to put an end to all that. We can just keep winning games and who knows. We will try and finish in a (UEFA) Europa League position.”
Of the three places available in the Europa League, Swansea City have taken one as the League Cup winners, and Wigan Athletic will also qualify via the FA Cup. This leaves one place up for grabs in the Premier League, where the team finishing in fifth will enter at the playoff stage.
Of their remaining four fixtures, the two which stand out for Everton are the Merseyside derby against Liverpool at Anfield on 5 May, and then on the final day of the season, they travel to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea in what could yet prove to be a crucial fixture. By that time Moyes will hope to have picked up maximum points at home to Fulham and West Ham United.