DAVID MOYES says his Everton players are playing for places this weekend, regardless of the forthcoming FA Cup semi final with Liverpool.
The Blues face a gruelling Easter weekend, with this afternoon’s trip to Norwich City followed swiftly by a home clash with Sunderland on Monday.
They may be on a run of just two defeats in 15 games, but with next weekend’s Merseyside derby at the forefront of most supporters’ minds, the temptation will be there for Moyes to rotate his squad over the next two Premier League games.
It means the likes of Magaye Gueye, Victor Anichebe, Denis Stracqualursi and the returning Royston Drenthe could all come into contention. All have impressed in fits and starts this season, but Moyes says all players should be fighting for their place, irrespective of which games are to come.
“To win the next game is the most important one, it always is,” said the Blues boss.
“They are playing for their places just now, whether it be a semi-final or a league game, they have to play for their places to be in the team and it has been like that all year.
“The important thing is to keep the momentum going into the Norwich game and we did that with a win against West Brom.
“We have two difficult games on Saturday and Monday and if we want to keep ourselves in a decent league position we are going to have to try to pick up some points.”
Moyes, whose side currently sit seventh in the Premier League table, a place above local rivals Liverpool, says the Blues’ recent run has provided an injection of confidence to his side, who in true Everton style had started the season slowly.
He said: “It has probably been the best run we’ve had this season but we want to keep it going. We were in a really tough schedule in March but we feel much better after a bit of rest.
“I think the players that were here have done a good job. They just needed a little lift that the boys who arrived in January gave them.
“But they got that and they are starting to look like their old selves again. The players are in good form just now.”
“They have confidence because they know they are playing much better.
“I think the whole group are in a much better position than they were in the first couple of months of the season.”
Moyes has no complaints over the scheduling of the Premier League’s fixtures, with his side facing a 500-mile round trip to Norfolk today, before taking on Sunderland less than 48 hours later.
“It’s been that way for years, hasn’t it?” he says. “I think some teams have been given a better situation getting a game on Saturday and a game on Tuesday but then we get a day longer to prepare for the semi final.
“The game has changed and it is harder now to put the players out and you might not always be giving the supporters exactly what they would hope for, but I’m not going to whinge about fitting the games in. That’s the way it is.”
Moyes could have both Seamus Coleman and Jack Rodwell back available for at least one of this weekend’s fixtures. Rodwell’s recent involvement has been limited by a hamstring problem, while Coleman has been nursing a persistent thigh problem.
Steven Pienaar, who is cup-tied for next weekend’s semi-final clash, will start against Norwich, provided he can shake off a minor knock.