It’s not been the best of league seasons for Everton — Roberto Martinez’s side currently sits 14th in the Premier League, less than a year after a surprising fifth-place finish — but the constant bright spot throughout has been the Toffees’ standout performances and continued progression in the Europa League.
[ MORE: Thursday’s Europa League roundup ]
Following Thursday’s 2-1 round-of-16 first-leg victory over Dynamo Kiev, Martinez is hoping that finally, after seven months of Europa League success, it will finally translate into improved performances — and results — in the league.
“I think it has to be a turning point for us. The crowd is intelligent and they know that we are a very honest group of players that are trying to play our best football.
“Today you saw the same team with a real anxiety in the first 20-25 minutes. We found it difficult to express ourselves but when we get our tempo right and that expression in that play we are a very, very good team.
“You cannot underestimate a win in Europe and I thought the way we did it was fantastic. Our intensity in possession was very good and then to be able to win a game against a side with a winning mentality was very pleasing.
“And now we need to focus on the league and on Sunday get that feeling that we had in the second half.”
In their remaining 10 league games, Everton host their three toughest remaining opponents — Southampton, Manchester United and Tottenham — at Goodison Park, face three middling teams with little or nothing to play for and four relegation-threatened sides to round out the 2014-15 season.
20 points out of a possible 30 isn’t an inconceivable feat for Everton, which means they could find themselves just inside the top 10 at the end of the season. Given how the season has gone thus far, that wouldn’t be the worst finish in the world and would generate plenty of momentum ahead of next season.
A run to the Europa League final would probably soften the league critics more than a bit, as well.