Everton boss Roberto Martinez has dismissed Liverpool’s Premier League title chances by suggesting the battle for the trophy is down to the top three.
Martinez takes his side to leaders Chelsea on Saturday looking to become the first manager to inflict a Premier League home defeat on Jose Mourinho.
As far as the Everton boss is concerned, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City are the three contenders for the title. That is despite the fact that Liverpool, in fourth, are only a point behind City and four adrift of Chelsea.
Martinez unhappy at FA Cup ticket allocation
- Meanwhile, Roberto Martinez says he is “disappointed” that Everton have been given a reduced ticket allocation for their FA Cup quarter-final at Arsenal. The club have been given 5,186 tickets for the match at the Emirates Stadium on March 8.
- FA Cup rules state that away teams can ask for up to 15% of seats for all ties up to including the quarter-finals, meaning Everton were entitled to 9,000 seats.But Arsenal’s Safety Advisory Group has cut that allocation on safety grounds.
- “I’m disappointed, because it’s a major, major football event, and we want to have as many fans as we can there,” Martinez said.”Remember, we are a club with fans who travel in huge numbers. We don’t want any sort of disappointment that comes from fans missing out.
- “Obviously, the decision has been taken for safety reasons, and there’s not much we can do. “I don’t think it’s a decision that’s been made just for Everton, and for this tie. It’s been a general decision, every time there’s been a big football event there, that there could be some safety worries.
- “It’s disappointing, and I understand the frustration of the fans. It’s just about making sure now that the ones who are fortunate enough to be with us have an enjoyable afternoon.”
Everton, in sixth place, retain hopes of catching Liverpool and claiming the fourth and final Champions League qualification spot, but would have to make up an eight-point gap to do so.
Martinez did not mention Liverpool by name, but made it clear that he sees the title contest as a three-way battle.
“Nothing is given. There are a lot of points to play for – 39 points for us and 36 for other teams. But clearly, the top three teams are in a very advantageous position to win the title,” Martinez said.
“Everyone else will rely on how good they can be now, and how effective they can be from now until the end of the season to see where it can take them. If you look at the table now, you’ll see clearly where you are in terms of the aims for the season. You need to be realistic with it.
“The points tally gives you a great starting point. If you look at the points totals accumulated by the top three, they clearly have a great chance to win the title. The next four teams have a great opportunity to get into that fourth place, and then you’ve got a really decisive battle to try to stay in the division.”
Chelsea boss Mourinho has repeatedly played down Chelsea’s title chances, even though they are a point clear of Arsenal at the top with 12 games to play.Martinez, for his part, is not buying Mourinho’s pessimism.
“From the outside, Chelsea look a team who are capable of competing for the title, in the same way that I can see Arsenal and Manchester City putting forward strong arguments to win the title,” Martinez said.
“It’s the final third of the season, and now is the time when teams can speak about their aims. When you look at the way teams are playing, and the points tallies they have, it is plain that those three clubs will have clear ambitions to win the title, and rightly so.”
Everton have not won a league fixture at Stamford Bridge since November 1994, although they did claim victory there on penalties in a 2011 FA Cup fifth-round replay. No visiting team have managed a league win at Chelsea in either of Mourinho’s two spells as manager; the first between 2004 and September 2007, the second beginning at the start of this season.
Earlier this season, though, Martinez guided Everton to a first away win at Manchester United since 1992 – and he believes they are capable of victory at Chelsea too as they bid to bounce back from the 1-0 defeat they suffered in their last league game at Tottenham on February 9.
“I do feel that we’ve performed really, really well away from home. I don’t think it’s been a case of not being confident away from home, and not being able to be ourselves. I think we have done that,” Martinez said.
“The only thing I would say is that when you play well away from home, you need to get full points. It’s no good to go away from home, play well and maybe drop two points, or even – as happened at White Hart Lane – play well and lose.
“I think that’s the big difference. If there’s one area we want to improve, it’s making sure we win when we play well. There are no excuses. From that point of view, this weekend is going to be the biggest test. Chelsea, as you know, have terrific home form – not just this season, but over the years with this manager.
“So it’s an incredible challenge that we’ve got ahead. But we need that. If we go anywhere in the league and play well, we need to collect the points. That’s the area in which we need to work to fulfil the potential of this squad.”