Ancelotti 'surprised' by Everton fitness, and still aiming to steer club into Europe next season

Carlo Ancelotti admits he was left ‘surprised’ by Everton’s fitness levels during their draw with Liverpool and says he still holds ambitions of securing European qualification this season.

Everton returned from the Premier League’s suspension with a goalless draw against the league leaders at Goodison Park, with the Toffees impressing in spells and having the better opportunities to win the match late on.

Ancelotti was pleased with his side’s preparation and fitness levels following the league’s enforced break, and is hopeful his side can maintain those levels ahead of Wednesday’s trip to face bottom side, Norwich.

“We trained well,” Ancelotti said at his pre-match press conference. “The [Liverpool] game showed a good condition, we were surprised of this, the team was fantastic from a physical aspect.

“I’m sure it will be more difficult in the next game as we don’t have much time to rest. We have to be focused to repeat the same performance, but the physical aspect will be more difficult.”

Everton currently sit in the bottom half of the division following last weekend’s draw and face an uphill battle to secure continental qualification – the Blues currently eight points behind sixth-placed Wolves – though Ancelotti is refusing to rule out the prospect of playing in Europe next season ahead of his side’s final eight games.

“It is important to have a goal to try to reach,” the Italian said. “Our goal is to compete until the end of the season, to try to climb the table and try to play in Europe next season. It is difficult, but the teams above are not so far [away].”

The Everton boss also provided fitness updates ahead of the trip to Carrow Road and confirmed both Yerry Mina and Fabian Delph will miss the clash, though says both players are closing in on a return to first-team action.

“Yerry Mina and Delph are close to coming back but not available for the game tomorrow. I hope they will be available for the next game.

“We had no injury problems for the game against Liverpool so it will be the same squad against Norwich.”

“Djibril Sidibe is not available tomorrow. He has a problem on his feet, an inflammation,” he added. “I hope he will be ready soon.”

Rating the impact of five Premier League players who returned from long-term injury after the restart

See also – 90’s Football Hall of Fame: Saluting Everton cult hero Daniel Amokachi

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