LIVERPOOL -- Everton manager Roberto Martinez says that three wins will take the club into next season’s Champions League -- even though qualification is out of their hands.
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Martinez’s side have won eight of their last nine Premier League matches to pull themselves into contention for a top-four finish.
But the one defeat in that run, a 3-2 loss at home to Crystal Palace on April 16, means that Everton are relying on fourth-placed Arsenal to slip up.
The Toffees will move into fourth place if they avoid defeat at Southampton on Saturday, as the Gunners do not face Newcastle until Monday.
If Everton win all three of their remaining league games, they will finish the season with 78 points.
No team in the Premier League era with a points tally that high has ever finished lower than third, while on two occasions since the formation of the league -- in 1997 and 1998 -- that total would have been enough to win the title.
The highest points total of any team to finish fourth in the Premier League was 76, accrued in 2008 by a Liverpool side who finished 11 points clear of fifth-placed Everton.
Asked if he felt three wins would secure the Toffees a place in the Champions League for the first time since 2005, Martinez said: “Yes. I think it’s fair to say that if you look at the last 15 years, or since the Premier League started, fourth place is well below 76 points. There’s only been one occasion where you needed 76 points for that. On average, you’ve always needed fewer points.
“You don’t get far wrong when you look at the points tally. It doesn’t matter who you play against or who you’re fighting against to get into that fourth spot, it’s always the points tally that matters.
“I would go as far as to say that if you get nine points and don’t get into the Champions League, you can be very proud and happy. In the same way, if you get into the Champions League with 71 or 72 points, you should be disappointed.
“That’s the target that we’ve set ourselves -- how many points we can get from now until the end of the season. We want to make sure we are fresh, that we’ve recovered, and we’ll look at every game as a unique opportunity to show what we can do.”