By Carl Markham, PA
Frank Lampard insists Everton must not adopt a belief that their fight for survival boils down to an “all or nothing” encounter at home to Crystal Palace.
The Toffees realistically need two points from their remaining two matches but fans, well aware of the team’s woeful away record, have long been fearing a final-day trip to top-four chasing Arsenal.
But Lampard said it would not be wise to pin all their hopes on their last home game of the season in case they still needed to go to the Emirates to get something at the weekend.
“If you approach it as ‘all or nothing’ and then we don’t get the right result, do you then try to rekindle that you have a game to come?” he said.
“It is the reality. We have to approach it as a game at Goodison, a game against a really good opponent, and a game we all understand what it is.
“We have two games left to probably get two points with the goal difference situation with Leeds (Everton are 18 better off).
“We understand the situation, understand what we need and what we want and we have to prepare as well as we can to get it.
“But we are not going to write off a game against Arsenal, it’s a game to go and contend and try and get a result no matter what happens on Thursday.”
Everton had two players sent off in Sunday’s defeat to Brentford, their first loss at home since mid-March, and since arriving in late January Lampard has seen as many dismissals as Premier League victories (five).
Those red cards have come in the last 11 matches, with two on Sunday, but the Toffees boss insists his players are handling the pressure of a relegation scrap.
“We have got red cards this year and I am not mad on that fact because they obviously make games hard, but at the same time a lot of them have been footballing mistakes – but of course we have to try to manage against that,” he added.
The atmosphere at Goodison in recent weeks, with the team bus being greeted by thousands of fans and plumes of blue smoke, has undoubtedly contributed to an upturn in results.
And Lampard wants his players to harness that emotion again, while still comprehending the bigger picture.
“I think they have to understand the occasion, they have to tap into that,” he said.
“It is not the fifth game of the season where you are trying to get yourself going, it is a game which is really critical.
“We have to use the fact there is a pressure on us in a good way and play with control on top of that, that is the balance.”
On their destiny still being in their own hands he added: “That is the nice thing, that’s a good thing. If you had offered that to us a few weeks ago we probably would have taken it.
“But it is just words at the moment. It is nice that it is in our hands and if we can get the right performance, things go our way, tap into the atmosphere, we know we have an opportunity to get where we want to be.”