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Midfield void haunts Everton


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Neville calls for renewed European push

Phil Neville has called on Everton to shake off the New Year blues and spring into action to secure a place in Europe.

• Blog: Fourth is the dream

David Moyes' men have lost some ground in the chase for a top-four finish after winning just two of their last seven Premier League games.

Having drawn 2-2 at League One side Oldham in their FA Cup fifth-round tie last weekend, Everton return to league action this Saturday when they travel to Norwich.

They remain well placed for European qualification, lying in sixth place, six points off the fourth and final Champions League spot, currently occupied by Tottenham.

And if they were to miss out on the top four, Nevilles says Everton would still relish the chance to play in the Europa League by qualifying either through their league position or via the FA Cup.

"We need to start winning games," club captain Neville told the Liverpool Daily Post. "Now is the time that we will start hitting form. If you look at all the teams in the Premier League, I don't think anyone is flowing or playing the type of stylish football they did before Christmas.

"It happens every year. January and February are those months where you have to slug it out. You come out the Christmas period where you have played so many games in a short space of time, and there's almost a lull where the pitches are bad and the weather is freezing cold and players are maybe fatigued.

"But it's now when the nights start to get lighter and the weather turns and you have a bit of blue sky and sunshine in training and you see teams hitting form again."

Everton have lost four out of their 26 league games this season; a record bettered only by leaders Manchester United and second-placed Manchester City, who have suffered three defeats each. But Moyes' side have been held up by the fact that they have drawn 12 matches, more than any other top-flight side.

Neville added: "We are chasing a European place and have a massive carrot in front of us in terms of the next two months. We have 12 games left in the league and we want to be in Europe, and that means we have to start winning games."

Everton will be aiming to do just that against a Norwich side who have gone nine league games without a win, and who suffered the humiliation of an FA Cup fourth-round exit via a 1-0 defeat at home to non-league Luton at the end of January.

But they snatched a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park in November, and Neville said: "I'd say Norwich is one of the tougher away games. They gave us a good game there last year and this season they got a well-deserved point at Goodison.

"Chris Hughton has built a good solid young team. Norwich are now stabilising themselves in the premier league, and if they stay up they can start to grow and maybe achieve what Stoke have in being a top-ten team."


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