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Fortress Goodison can help power Everton to Europe, says Koeman

 

By Carl Markham

Everton manager Ronald Koeman believes his side have restored Goodison Park's fear factor. The Toffees have won seven successive Premier League matches at home and the Merseyside derby defeat in December is their only league loss on their own ground in the last 13 months.

Everton have scored 26 goals and conceded just five in their current home run and Koeman believes Saturday's visitors Burnley - who have yet to win away from home - and remaining opponents Watford and Chelsea have every right to be wary.

"Most teams are stronger at home than they are away - that is normal in football - but the team is really confident at home now," Koeman said.

"It is also the case that our opponents maybe have more doubts coming to Goodison Park."

Their home form has kept Everton in a position to be able to improve on their current seventh place between now and the end of the season, although making the top four is unrealistic.

"We will try (to finish higher) and it starts by ourselves," he added.

"If we keep winning and keep the momentum then it is possible because, while Chelsea and Tottenham are maybe the strongest teams at the moment, the rest have difficulties.

"We have to win our own games, that is the only important thing for us."

Rafael Benitez has, meanwhile, targeted Stoke City captain Ryan Shawcross as his top priority if Newcastle United are promoted this summer.

Benitez wants an overhaul of the Newcastle squad with at least six new faces to help them cope with life back in the Premier League. He especially wants a strong reliable centre-back to build around and has identified Shawcross as the perfect man.

Ciaran Clark and Jamaal Lascelles have predominantly been playing at centre-back for Newcastle this season but Benitez wants more Premier League experience.

Shawcross, 29, is still a regular in Mark Hughes' side, and only Erik Pieters has made more appearances for Stoke this season. But Stoke have allowed Shawcross's contract to run down and after this year he only has one more year on his deal there.

With no new deal even offered to Shawcross yet, this has given Benitez encouragement that he could tempt him to St James' Park.

Benitez is on the brink of taking Newcastle - who host Leeds tomorrow night - back into the Premier League.

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