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With Fifth Gone, Liverpool Shift Target to Topping Everton

With Liverpool's season goal at times seemingly adjusted downward with each passing week, the new target is beating Everton to sixth—and Sunday's derby will go a long way towards determining their chances of doing so.

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Alex Livesey

Liverpool's season has at times seemed a series of diminishing targets. From fourth and talk of not being "24 points behind [Manchester United] in terms of quality" to fifth and now, after that too has fully slipped away, to dreams of sixth and hopes the club can edge out Everton in the final table.

Perhaps, looked at in that light, it's fortunate for Liverpool the season only has three games left in it before its end. If there were instead three months to go, that worrying trend of lowered expectations might point to a struggle to finish in the top half before everything was said and done.

Still, with Everton coming up on the weekend and with it the chance to make the club's latest goal a little more likely should Liverpool win all three points, perhaps there are at least a few positives to focus on rather than the way top four aspirations have turned into top five aspirations that have turned into top six aspirations.

"We still have a chance of catching Everton and that's our target," said midfielder Lucas, speaking to the club's latest target as the lustre of Saturday's six goal thumping of Newcastle wears off and the team turns its focus to Sunday's derby. "We know we have to win if we want to finish a position higher than we are now."

At present, Liverpool stand five points behind Everton, and anything less than a win will leave the Reds all but mathematically incapable of overtaking their local rival. And if Liverpool can't overtake Everton, it will mark the first time they have finished behind the Blues two years in a row while both clubs were in the top flight since the 1936-37 and 38-39 seasons.

Few on the pitch or in the stands, though, will be thinking about such records once the match kicks off, with both sides looking to improve on October's 2-2 draw at Goodison, while Everton will have one eye on their own faint hopes of making the top five and Liverpool mostly looking to end the season on a good run in the hope it will help to provide a foundation for a top four challenge next term.

"Merseyside derbies are always special to play in," added Lucas. "The atmosphere will be amazing at Anfield and it's the kind of game you really look forward to playing in. We will go into the derby with a lot of confidence. Hopefully we can get another win and try to finish the season on a bit of a high.

"It's been a difficult season for us but we have to keep going. We still have three games remaining and the chance to get nine more points. The manner of our victory against Newcastle showed the character of everyone.

"We approached the game in the right way and played with a lot of confidence and intensity. After going 4-0 up in the second half, we just controlled the game. I remember when we beat Newcastle 5-1 at St James' Park a few years ago and this was even better.

"But even though we won 6-0 there are still areas that we can improve upon. We need to keep working and keep believing."

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