Roberto Martínez has claimed the Premier League's current top four are not guaranteed Champions League qualification despite being in sight of his 71-point target.
The Everton manager has maintained all season that 71 points will suffice for a top-four finish and Chelsea (66), Liverpool, Arsenal (62) plus Manchester City (60) are all comfortably on course for that tally. Everton are nine points adrift of fourth-placed City, having played a game more, yet Martínez refuses to discount his side's prospects and believes a top-four team could conceivably collapse during the run-in.
"I still think 71 points will give you Champions League," said Martínez, who faces his former club Swansea City at Goodison Park on Saturday. "Obviously that's trying to look into a crystal ball and guess the results between the top sides like when Man City come to Goodison and Anfield and Arsenal have got difficult games. You've now got Chelsea and Man United involved in the Champions League, teams at the bottom are fighting for their lives – there's nobody playing for nothing.
"I think one of the top four could have a major slip, but we are looking at ourselves. Mathematically we can still get into the Champions League so that is our objective. Where we are now, if we get 30 points (from the remaining 10 games) we'll get into the Champions League."
Everton qualified for the Champions League with 61 points in 2004-05, losing to Villarreal before the lucrative group stage, but Martínez bizarrely claimed he would take a higher points total over a top-four finish this season.
"If we can get to 71 points and not get into the Champions League, I'll be as happy as if we got 68 points and did get into it," he said. "It would show real progress for us to get that number of points. Don't get me wrong, getting into the Champions League is a huge achievement but I don't want to get into a competition that we're not ready for. If we're going to go into the Champions League, lose in the qualifying stages and not get into the group stages, it's pointless.
"If you get 71 points it's because as a team you're very, very good at what you're doing. I think the last time Everton qualified it was with one of the lowest points tallies ever. What I'm trying to say is, the moment we get into the Champions League – and we will get there – we need to be strong enough to do well. It's not just about getting there and then getting knocked out in the qualifying game."