Moyes targets win at Villa to keep hopes alive
Everton boss David Moyes believes Sunday's clash at Aston Villa has become a "must win'' if his side are to have any hope of qualifying for the Champions League.
It is amazing what one good result and a week can do because just seven days ago Moyes intimated such a task was beyond his side in the wake of a 2-1 defeat at Portsmouth.
But after thumping Wigan 4-0 at Goodison Park last weekend, their hopes of a top-four finish have been revived, although perhaps now hinge on whether they can add to Martin O'Neill's current misery.
With Everton not playing until 24 hours after Arsenal's visit to Wigan, the Toffees could be 10 points adrift of Arsene Wenger's side come kick off, adding to the pressure.
"For the Champions League, the answer is 'yes, it is a must win','' conceded Moyes when posed the question. "If we've any chance of qualifying for the Champions League we need to hang in there and hope Arsenal slip up.
"Who knows? Let's hope we can pick up the points, that Arsenal do slip up and we can catch them. If we do lose then that would only highlight the gap between them and us.
"But they've still Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea to play in their remaining games, so if we can cut that gap to four then it would make it that much easier to get there.
"But you have to say Arsenal are in good form at the moment, and they've players back from injury, although they did lose a couple in the Champions League game in midweek.''
The most likely outcome is Everton will finish fifth or sixth, and the smart money would be on them over Villa right now as they have lost just two of their last 19 games.
Compare that to a Villa side who have lost their last four games in the league, and are without a win in their last nine overall in all competitions.
"If we're looking at the UEFA Cup (next season the Europa League), we're both in a strong position for that,'' added Moyes. "After all the turmoil we had at the start of the season, and with players missing, if you had told me then we would finish in the top 10 I would have shaken your hand.
"It shows what we've done over the years, showed what the players are all about, and showed we are a side worthy of the top end of the league than near the bottom.''
Although Moyes felt certain not so long ago Villa would finish in the top four themselves, he is still wary of the threat they pose.
"In the period just after Christmas, through January and February, they were winning games, scoring in the last minute, and I really fancied them to finish fourth,'' assessed Moyes.
"I felt they were really strong favourites for that, and I think there was even a point when people were thinking they might even get to to the top spot. But it shows you that you can have a dip in form and it can change completely, that at times football can very quickly turn around.
"So is it the right time to play them? I couldn't tell you. I just know they've still had a really good season. They've a great manager, they've still a good team and they are still in a strong position, but of course we'd like to try and climb over them if we can.''
Moyes has no fresh injury worries, with goalkeeper Tim Howard cleared to play despite a sore hamstring and thigh potentially aggravated by a back problem.