Everton eyeing UCL as Swansea await
Everton host another of the Premier League's surprise packages when Swansea head to Goodison Park on Saturday, with Leon Osman confident the Blues can maintain their challenge for a Champions League spot.
The Welsh side will arrive in Liverpool still fresh from their 2-0 League Cup semifinal first leg victory at Chelsea.
David Moyes's Everton have built on a fine finish to last season by pushing for a place in the top four, with just one defeat in their last 10 matches in all competitions.
They go into the clash with Swansea two points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, although the European champions have a game in hand.
Osman, 31, who won his first England cap in November’s 4-2 defeat in Sweden, celebrates a decade since his first Everton appearance this weekend.
Although Moyes is still struggling for squad depth and admits the only new arrivals at Everton this month are likely to be loan players, Osman believes the Toffees can push all the way for the Champions League if they avoid injuries.
"You'd rather get closer than further away and we've been developing as a team and are finding a way to win games now.
"We drew a lot at the start of the season but we're finding a way to get the wins now which should put us in good stead.
"The test will be if we can sustain it. In the past we’ve managed it for the second half of the season but we've had a reasonably good start to the second part of the season and hopefully we can maintain it.
"We hope we have the depth to do it. We’ll need to have some luck in keeping our key players injury-free."
Belgian winger Kevin Mirallas remains a doubt with a hamstring problem and midfielder Darron Gibson and defender Tony Hibbert are absent.
Swansea have built on their fine debut Premier League season under Brendan Rodgers, now manager of Everton's local rivals Liverpool, since Michael Laudrup took charge at the Liberty Stadium ahead of the current campaign.
As well as having their second leg against Chelsea to look forward to, the Swans also have an FA Cup third round replay at Arsenal on Wednesday.
Swansea have lost just four Premier League matches on their travels all season and they are unbeaten in their last six matches.
One of the many highlights of Laudrup's reign has been the form of £2 million ($3.21 million, 2.45 million euros) pre-season signing Michu.
The 26-year-old Spaniard, who joined from Rayo Vallecano, scored his 16th goal of the season in the victory at Stamford Bridge.
Swansea midfielder Leon Britton believes Michu's impact at a new club has been similar to that of Robin van Persie, who has scored 20 goals in all competitions since joining Manchester United from Arsenal for a far more expensive £20 million in the close season.
"His form gives you massive confidence – as a teammate when Michu is in front of goal, he's just so calm and composed you know he's going to put it away," Britton said.
"The chance against Chelsea was still a tough one to put away but he's done it all season.
"For £2 million I think, although Robin van Persie might be the signing of the season, you've got to say Michu is right up alongside him."
Laudrup's only absentee is Neil Taylor and the defender will miss the entire season with an ankle injury.