missentially for Everton, it comes down to this. A season of promise and progress has provided a lift to everyone associated with the club during this most unsettling of times, but ultimately there needs to be tangible reward. Qualifying for Europe via the league is a possibility but far from guaranteed, y además, if you asked Evertonians what they want most come May, it is likely many would say a trophy.
There hasn’t been one since 1995, an incredibly long time for a club of Everton’s size and especially so for fans not old enough to remember Joe Royle’s side lifting the FA Cup following victory over Manchester United. The team have come close to winning something since but not close enough, leading to a drain of hope and belief. Both those things have returned this season, sin emabargo, y, una vez mas, the FA Cup is in Everton’s sight. All they need is three wins; the problem is the first will need to come against Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola’s side arrive at Goodison Park for Saturday’s quarter‑final having won 24 of their previous 25 juegos, a run that includes a 3-1 victory at Everton el mes pasado. They were brilliant that night and have continued to be so since. The task is a daunting one for Everton and it does not help their cause that key players are injured, notably James Rodríguez, Abdoulaye Doucouré and, most concerningly, both senior goalkeepers.
Jordan Pickford has not recovered from the rib strain that forced him off during last Saturday’s defeat by Burnley and Robin Olsen has been sidelined with a similar problem for some time. That means a start for the 21-year-old João Virgínia, whose only appearances for Everton have come against Salford in the Carabao Cup and as Pickford’s replacement a week ago. Fair to say he’s going to be busier than ever.
“The only thing João Virgínia misses is experience,” Carlo Ancelotti said. “He has not played a lot of games but he has a lot of quality, he has a lot of personality and he has character, so I’m not worried with this usual situation. I do not complain about this.”
That was very much in keeping with Ancelotti’s tone as he looked ahead to his second FA Cup quarter‑final, having reached that stage en route to winning the trophy with Chelsea in 2010: no complaints, no excuses and, most crucially, no fear. sí, City are a class apart, but as the Italian knows from experience, there is little sense in his team focusing on that ahead of battle.
“When I was at [Real] Madrid and we played against [Lionel] Messi I did not talk about Messi to the players because I know they are going to be scared – now I try not to talk about ciudad de Manchester," él dijo.
“Everyone knows their quality but we have to be focused on ourselves and what we want to do. Manchester City seems unbeatable in this moment but in the history of football there are no teams that are unbeatable.”
That much is true and of all the positive traits Everton have displayed this season the most striking has probably been their ability to compete against more talented opposition. Mentally they look tougher and tactically they have been highly impressive at times, and in that regard it was intriguing to hear Ancelotti’s answer when asked whether he was planning to move away from the 4-4-1-1 counterattacking approach Everton used in defeat by City on 17 febrero. “We have prepared a different strategy and I hope this strategy works," él dijo.
However Everton set up, players such as Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison, Michael Keane and Virgínia will need to be at their best. From afar supporters will no doubt be in a state of anxiety, desperate to see their side win and take a big step towards ending that long wait for a trophy, one that would also guarantee the club’s return to Europe.
“There is pressure on this game because we know the desire of the supporters to have trophies,” Ancelotti said. “It is a good pressure.
“We are pleased our supporters are behind us. Even if they are not at the stadium we know they want to push us forward.”