COMMENT By Danny Wright
Everton can take a massive stride towards Europe if they can beat West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
Supporters should forget upcoming trips to both Merseyside rivals Liverpool and Manchester United – Ronald Koeman and the Everton faithful should be eyeing three points against the Baggies which could prove to be massive for the club’s future.
Usually, only one Europa League place is offered to teams through the Premier League – that being the team that finishes in fifth.
However, Manchester United’s League Cup win means that they automatically qualify for UEFA’s second competition.
With United currently sitting in sixth place in the league, it means that the seventh-placed team would qualify if a top-six team wins the FA Cup.
Four of the current top five sides are still in the cup competition, as well as Manchester United. So, as long as the current top six sides stay above seventh, Everton would just have to hope that one of United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham or Manchester City lifts the trophy in May.
Given that the other teams in the competition are Middlesbrough, Millwall and non-league Lincoln there is very high possibility that this will happen.
So what does this have to do with West Brom?
The Baggies are just four points behind Everton and below them is another four point gap to ninth-placed Stoke, who have played one game more than Saturday’s opponents.
Tony Pulis’ side also have continental dreams and if they were to win then the pressure would be piled on Ronald Koeman to keep his side in seventh.
Ultimately a win for Everton would see them move seven points clear of the Baggies and could potentially leave them within touching distance of Jose Mourinho’s side in sixth place.
The fixture could not only shape this season and next – it could also have massive implications in the future.
The Everton squad includes a number of talent who expect to be playing in continental competition.
Champions League football remains a long way off for Everton but players like Romelu Lukaku need to accept that the blue half of Merseyside can at best hope for a place in Europe’s next best competition.
A win on Saturday could prove to be massive in deciding the future of the Belgian star as well as the future of the club as a whole.
In other Everton news, Koeman has delivered his verdict of Saturday’s match on Twitter.