The question is one that people on Merseyside and throughout the globe, including Joe Prince Wright and myself in the above video, have contemplated – will Everton be motivated to affect Liverpool’s title bid in this weekend’s match against Manchester City?
The scenario is straightforward: If Everton takes a point off of Manchester City on Sunday, the title is back in Brendan Rodgers’ hands. Fail to do so and Liverpool’s title hopes diminish greatly and shift to the hands of Aston Villa and West Ham, who City host in their final two matches.
And although Liverpool faces the more dire circumstances, Everton is still battling to qualify for Europe. While Arsenal are heavy favorites to finish 4th, the Toffees are still motivated to catch the Gunners or, at the very least, secure a Europa League berth. Roberto Martinez’ men currently sit in one of the two Europa League spots in 5th place on 69 points. But just three points behind sits Tottenham and nine points behind is Manchester United, both of whom can mathematically overtake the Toffees before the season closes out.
The idea that Everton could be willing to jeopardize the Europa League in order to put one over on their city rivals was contemplated by former Toffees striker Andy Gray earlier this week on TalkSport:
“Peter Reid and I were talking about it last night and we think maybe Evertonians for once in their life may not be too upset if they get beat this week,” said Gray.
“The players will try and do their job the best they can but I’ve got a funny feeling many thousand Evertonians, for one week only, will not mind if they lose the game.”
The topic has since caught fire in Liverpool prompting Martinez to share his thoughts on the matter.
“We’re looking for the next six points,” said Martinez on Thursday. “It’s a really important game, against a team fighting for the title, but we want to finish strong.
“I always felt the relationship between the two clubs in this city has had incredible chapters and this would be another fascinating one but there is no doubting our integrity towards the league and competition, we want to win every single game we go into.
“They are precious points for us and we cannot afford not to give everything we have. Helping other teams – that’s not the way we do our work. We are just focused on trying to win for ourselves.”
The comment is vintage Martinez, an answer one should only expect from the former Wigan manager who just last year put the Latic’s relegation status on the line to win the FA Cup. For many the Europa League has become a poisoned chalice but one gets the sense that for Martinez and his squad, it’s a tangible distinction they will feel proud to have earned.
As always is the case for Martinez, this weekend is all about Everton. Please the supporters with beautiful, inspired football and let the rest of the league play out as it will. “The fans want to come to Goodison, and be proud of the team. If that adds some spice in the twists and turns of the title race, then so be it, but it’s important we are as good as we can be.”