London (AFP) – Playmaker James’s form could be pivotal if Everton are to secure a place in the Champions League the competition the club’s manager Carlo Ancelotti values above all others.
The 29-year-old Colombian international looked back to his best — injury having interrupted an impressive start to his Everton career — in Sunday’s FA Cup win over Championship side Sheffield Wednesday.
Everton are fifth just a point off the Champions League places and with a game in hand on fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur.
Ancelotti approaches Wednesday’s match with third-placed Leicester in a good frame of mind.
His three most potent offensive players James, Brazilian Richarlison and leading scorer Dominic Calvert-Lewin are all fit.
The 61-year-old Italian sees James as the crucial cog due to his ability to create chances.
“He was really good with the ball (against Sheffield Wednesday) and that’s what we are going to ask of him, to be really good and efficient,” said Ancelotti.
“He made a lot of passes and was really good delivering set-pieces.
“The fact that he is back, Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin can take advantage.”
Ancelotti is keen to deliver silverware to the success-starved Everton fans, with their trophy the 1996 FA Cup.
Nevertheless the former AC Milan and Real Madrid coach’s ambition is to qualify for the Champions League, which he has won three times as a coach and twice as a player.
“Personally? Yes,” he replied when asked at Tuesday’s press conference did he miss competing in the Champions League.
“I think the Champions League is the best competition in the world and as I said when I arrived here, to bring Everton to games in the Champions League is a fantastic motivation for me.
“I don’t know how long it will take for this but I hope soon we will be able to play games in the Champions League.
“It is a great motivation and a great, great desire.”
Ancelotti will also be boosted by the returns of French defender Lucas Digne and Nigerian international midfielder Alex Iwobi for the Leicester game.
He says the team will know a lot more about whether a Champions League spot is realistic after the next two home games, Leicester and then struggling Newcastle on Saturday.
“These are really important games for us,” said Ancelotti.
“We want to fight for the top four, we want to fight for the top six.
“The fact that we are going to play at home in these next two games means that after Saturday we know where we are going to be in the future.
“I hope it is a nice future.”
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