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Aug, 27, 2012

Neville: We're aiming for Europe

Phil Neville believes Everton's 100% start is proof that they can qualify for Europe this season.

•  Everton down Villa

David Moyes' side have won their opening two Premier League games for the first time since 2007-08, when they finished fifth and reached the Europa League.

Neville helped Everton follow their opening day 1-0 win over Manchester United with a 3-1 victory at Aston Villa on Saturday and has refused to rule out a push for the Champions League if the squad stays injury-free.

Everton last qualified for the competition by finishing fourth in 2005, before going out to Villarreal in the play-off round.

"If we can keep everyone fit, we can be challenging for European honours," club captain Neville told the Liverpool Echo. "That's what we want, European football - Champions League or Europa League, we're not bothered.

"That's massively difficult though. Those that spend the massive amounts of money come through right at the end. After 10 games, we'll know better where we are. But confidence is high, we're playing with bags of energy."

The Goodison Park outfit recently lost Jack Rodwell to Manchester City, but have managed to keep hold of the nucleus of their squad, while adding the likes of Kevin Mirallas and Steven Naismith.

"It's only happened once before in my time at the club that we've had such a settled time in pre-season," Neville said. "The manager was relaxed and so were the players. We've taken off from where we left off at the end of last season."

Everton are now unbeaten in their last 11 Premier League games, with confidence sky high at the club, Neville believes they can push on.

"If you were a player at Everton at the moment, I think you'd enjoy the kind of football we're playing. I think you can see there are all the ingredients for us to have a good season. There are only two games gone, so it'd be silly to say we're going to be challenging for this that and the other. But it has to breed some kind of confidence."

Everton's fast start is in contrast to last season, when they lost their opening Premier League match 1-0 at home to a QPR side who had just come up from the Championship.

"This time last season, the club was in a state of real nervousness, nervousness from the fans, from everybody really," Neville said. "We didn't have a centre forward. We were the only club in the Premier League who hadn't bought anyone and with five or six days to go that does create nervousness.

"We lost our first game to QPR and the fans weren't happy. No-one was happy. As players you want players in the dressing room to challenge you. And that's what we have this year. We've got real competition and the manager demanded from us that we hit the ground running."

Moyes, though, has urged his players not to get carried away by their start. He said: "When I got the fixtures, home to Manchester United and away to Villa, I thought it was a real tough start. The fixtures can sometimes dictate how you start but thankfully we've had a couple of really good wins. It's been a good start, but you don't get carried away."

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