Everton manager Roberto Martinez says that his side must do better at home if they are to fulfil their ambitions of a return to European competition.
The Merseyside club have hit form ahead of Saturday’s visit of West Bromwich Albion, with three successive 3-0 wins.
The last two of those have come in the Premier League, lifting Everton to eighth place in the table, one place below potential Europa League qualification depending on which teams win the FA Cup and League Cup.
But their win over Newcastle United at the start of February was Everton’s first in the league at Goodison Park since November.
Top scorer Romelu Lukaku believes that Champions League qualification remains a viable target, but Martinez knows that his side need to improve their home form if they are to continue climbing the league.
“We don’t try to hide the fact we want to reach the top four,” said the Spaniard, whose side qualified for the Europa League in 2014 after finishing fifth.
“Romelu accepts that challenge and that we need to become better. We want to aim high and be involved in the latter stages of every competition and be in the top four.
“As a team we are getting better. It shows after a demanding 18 months. The European campaign is helping us and we are getting the rewards on that.”
Everton, who have also reached the fifth round of the FA Cup, have lost away from home only once in the league this season — a record not bettered by any other side — and won 3-2 at West Brom in late September.
However, only three clubs have managed fewer than the Toffees’ four home wins and two of those are in the relegation places.
He will definitely be without injured midfielderMuhamed Besic and is likely to keep Joel Robles in goal as Tim Howard works his way back from a knee problem.
Despite prevailing on penalties in an FA Cup fourth-round replay at third-tier Peterborough United on Wednesday, West Brom head for Goodison Park in poor shape.
Tony Pulis’s side had won just three times in 15 games in all competitions before the shoot-out victory.
An increasing number of supporters are grumbling about the team’s style of play and Pulis has an injury crisis to grapple with for the weekend.
Gareth McAuley, who had been patched up after a thigh problem, suffered a hamstring injury at London Road that will keep him out for at least a fortnight.
Craig Dawson, Jonny Evans, Chris Brunt, James Morrison and Callum McManaman were also all sidelined for the FA Cup game and Pulis could be without all five on Merseyside.
The Baggies squeezed through despite another uninspiring display at Peterborough and captainDarren Fletcher believes the character that saw them avoid an embarrassing upset will be vital again at the weekend.
“It’s a big factor in any team and we’ve got that in abundance,” said the former Manchester Unitedstalwart. “That’s coming through now and we’ll stick together.
“There’s plenty more games to go and we’re in a position where you look to the bottom, but we’re only four or five points from pushing for seventh or eighth.”