Kobayashi Maru: Everton Edition

This image represents the mental wrestling some Everton fans are engaged in. - Laurence Griffiths

Like the Starfleet training exercise, Everton fans are faced with a no-win situation: is it worth qualifying for Champions League if doing so helps Liverpool get closer to winning the Premier League?

Most Liverpool fans expected to be in a continual conversation about fourth place this season, but as the second half of the season draws to a close we've been fortunate enough to be a regular part of the title discussion instead. Few would have any complaints about the team's good fortune this year, and it's made room for a different Merseyside club to battle for that fourth and final Champions League qualifying place instead.

Roberto Martinez has done a lot of good things in his first season with Everton, and while many attribute a lot of his success to his club's shrewd loan acquisitions, this doesn't change that the football Everton are playing has seen them in a position to possibly qualify for Europe's biggest club competition for the first time since the 2004-2005 season.

But because every club has their own version of Everything's The Worst, some Everton fans can't find a way to be happy about this turn of events. Their great tragedy, their ETW, is that in attempting to qualify for Champions League they may just help Liverpool to the title.

"We've spoken about it with some of the staff," said Everton defender Sylvain Distin, "and said 'What if we have to beat City to be in the Champions League but by doing that Liverpool win the league?' The funny thing is some people would rather we don't get Champions League as long as they don't win the league. It's mad!"

Indeed, it would be quite mad! It takes an extra special type of fan — an extra bitter Bitter, even — to wish for his or her own club to miss out on both the best of continental club football and the major payday that comes with it all for the sake of denying the local rivals winning the league.

It's likely a small fringe group of fans harbouring this rather perplexing set of views, and it certainly doesn't feel representative of a local rivalry that while often heated is usually respectful. It's tragic when fans' hate for their rivals eclipses their love of their own team, but Distin believes that at the end of the day, most people on Merseyside hope both teams can be successful in Europe next season.

"Personally I'd rather be in the Champions League," Distin continued. "You can't miss a chance for that. It would be amazing for the city if both clubs made it. I think deep down both sets of fans would like it if both clubs were in it."

By the time Everton face Manchester City at Goodison Park on May 3, Liverpool's match against City will have come and gone, and with it will go a significant chunk of the narrative that has been touting Liverpool v City as a title deciding match. Sunday's result will determine whether this handwringing by some Everton fans is absolutely warranted, and that's at least one thing they can thank Liverpool for.

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