Carlo Ancelotti is convinced that Everton can now compete with Chelsea – one of his main rivals for a place in the top four.
After beating Chelsea in December with Frank Lampard in charge, Everton travel to Stamford Bridge to face a revitalized side under new boss Thomas Tuchel.
But the Toffees themselves are riding the crest of a wave after three straight wins and can now truly see themselves as Champions League contenders.
Monday’s game with Chelsea could be crucial for Everton’s hopes, even if they have a game in hand, and Ancelotti believes they are an entirely different side to one that was largely beaten 4-0 at Stamford Bridge one year ago.
He said, “I think we’re better. We have more knowledge and more belief in what we’re doing.
“We can compete against Chelsea. It will be difficult, we know that because they are a fantastic team but we can compete.”
Asked if this was a big test of their top four titles, the Italian added: “Sure. We have 12 tests until the end of the season.
“It’s the first against Chelsea, but there are a lot of teams involved. A lot of strong teams.”
Ancelotti points to the recent victory over Liverpool – their first at Anfield in 22 years – as an important moment of their season.
“The win against Liverpool was a key point as we came back from a loss to Fulham at home, so the win at Liverpool gave us more confidence and conviction,” he added.
Tuchel has made a huge impression since taking over from Lampard at the end of January.
He hasn’t lost any of his 10 matches and once again moved the team up from ninth in the top four standings.
“Offensively they play a little differently but not too much because the quality of the players is always the same,” said Ancelotti.
“Now they’re really consistent because they haven’t lost under Tuchel and they’re solid but that doesn’t mean Lampard hasn’t done a good job, I think Lampard has done a fantastic job during that he was there.
“(Tuchel) has quality. He’s a young manager but he already has experience in Germany and Paris so he’s a manager with knowledge and ambition.”