Everton running hot in race for Champions League
08 April 2014, 15:43
London - It is a sign of the feel-good factor surrounding Everton's push for a top-four finish that instead of bunkering down as the season reaches its tense finale, Roberto Martinez's side are holding an open training session in front of thousands of fans.
Having won six successive league matches, the latest a hugely impressive 3-0 dismantling of Arsenal on Sunday, the Toffees are making a late surge towards a place in next season's Champions League.
That is something former manager David Moyes was never able to achieve - though they did reach the qualifying round in 2005 - and the fact that Martinez has got so close in his first season at Goodison Park has given the fans a huge lift.
That their progress up the table has been achieved on the back of some scintillating attacking play has further fueled the flames and Martinez said the players should welcome the challenge.
"We embrace those expectations, I said earlier in the season that it is very, very difficult to change the perception of what teams are going to challenge for, a top four position or to win the title," he told Sky Sports on Tuesday before a rare open training session at Goodison Park.
"For us to be involved in this fight is exactly what we are looking for. It's down to good work by the players and now we've got 18 points to fight for."
Sitting in fifth spot, one point behind Arsenal but with a match in hand, should Everton take maximum points from their final six matches they will guarantee fourth spot.
However, that would include home wins over Manchester United and then, in their penultimate match, Manchester City - a result that could hand bitter local rivals Liverpool a leg-up in their league title challenge.
According to defender Sylvain Distin, some Evertonians would even give up fourth spot if it meant denying Liverpool a first league title since 1990.
"We've spoken about it with some of the staff and said, 'What if we have to beat City to be in the Champions League, but by doing that Liverpool win the League'?
"The funny thing is some people would rather we don't get Champions League as long as they don't win the league," Distin said. "It's mad.
"Personally I'd rather be in the Champions League. You can't miss a chance for that.
"It would be amazing for the city if both clubs made it. Deep down all the fans would like it if we were both were in it."