(Reuters) - Everton are targeting European qualification this season but failure to secure a continental berth will not change the Premier League club's long-term plans, manager Carlo Ancelotti said on Friday.
Everton are unbeaten since the season restarted after the COVID-19 hiatus and sit 11th in the standings with 44 points -- three points behind seventh-placed Sheffield United who occupy the final Europa League spot with six games to go.
Everton's last campaign in Europe was in the 2017-18 season when they were knocked out in the group stage of the Europa League.
"It's really important to play in Europe," Ancelotti told reporters in a virtual news conference ahead of Monday's game at Tottenham Hotspur.
"It will be difficult but we have to fight, but (also) playing in Europe next season won't change our plans for the future. It will (make it) more complicated for next season, European football takes more energy."
Everton face ninth-placed Spurs, who were beaten by Sheffield United on Thursday, and the Italian manager expects a thrilling clash where a win would allow them to leapfrog the London club.
"They are a really dangerous team with fantastic players," Ancelotti said. "It will be an exciting game, we need to do the best."
Ancelotti also said that Brazilian striker Richarlison is expected to be fit after picking up a knock in Wednesday's 2-1 win over Leicester City.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Everton's top scorer with 13 league goals this season, has not scored in their last four games but Ancelotti said he was pleased with the 23-year-old striker's work ethic despite the goal scoring drought.
"It's true that he didn't score, but the most important part is the work that he's doing," said Ancelotti. "I've never had strikers with this kind of energy defensively.
"I appreciate this a lot and it doesn't matter if he didn't score because he will score again without problems."
(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)