How do you assess the title race at the moment?
Mauricio: “It’s a very difficult Premier League this season. It’s true the gap with Chelsea is big, it’s not an easy gap to reduce but we need to believe and need to try. There are also many teams in a short space fighting for the top four and it will be exciting until the end. It’s very competitive.”
How many teams do you think can still win the league?
Mauricio: “Mathematically it’s still all possible. Chelsea are in a very good position. The gap is 10 points and that’s a massive gap but there are still a lot of games to play and in our heads, we still believe, like I think other clubs believe they can also catch up.”
Can you see Chelsea slipping up at some point?
Mauricio: “In football, everything can happen and we need to be there if they fail. It’s important for us to be focused, working hard, trying to win games and getting points.”
What have you liked about Everton and their recent performances?
Mauricio: “It’s a very important game for us on Sunday. They are doing very well and they have a very good team with very good players. It will be a very competitive game and for us, it’s key to get the three points to keep our position in the table and to keep fighting, to try to reduce the gap with Chelsea.”
We have the team news updates on Toby Alderweireld, Harry Kane and Jan Vertonghen – read the team news here – are they major doubts?
Mauricio: “They are doubts for Sunday. We need to wait until tomorrow to assess them and then make a decision. We will see tomorrow.”
You have the best defensive record in the Premier League but are you worried that Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen are injury doubts when you are facing Romelu Lukaku?
Mauricio: “Sometimes things happen and you have some problems in the squad with some players but we are confident and we trust if they are not fit to play then the players who replace them can perform as well. It’s true we play against a very good team with very good players and Lukaku is in form, but we trust in the whole squad and if they (Jan/Toby) are not available we are sure we’ll compete in the same way."
Your fixtures have fallen well, they are all at home in March, does that enable you to do more work on the training ground because you don’t have to do too much travelling? Is this an important period to get the team ready for the last third of the season?
Mauricio: “Yes, it’s important to have the possibility to refresh and to deliver and develop ideas about our style to help the team collectively and individually. We believe we can help the team to arrive in a better condition and to have one week to prepare for your opponents and not be distracted when you play in the middle of the week in different competitions, we believe that can help. But we saw last week, Stoke had two weeks to prepare but in the first half, it was 4-0 to us. Sometimes you cannot explain football. If we win, it’s helpful, if we don’t win it’s because we work too much. You have to wait for the result and if we win, it’s because we work with good sense if not, it’s because we push the players."
You said a couple of weeks ago you wanted to see more from Vincent Janssen, maybe last weekend was a chance for him to come on at 4-0. Are you still confident in him?
Mauricio: “Yes, but you need to analyse the game. We had a few problems, Toby, Jan, okay, it’s 4-0 but it was up to me to choose between Son and Vincent and we decided to replace Harry with Sonny. I try to be honest and fair and I’m happy with how he’s reacted in the last few weeks. I’m happy with his reaction and he realises he needs to fight on the training ground and in training sessions and give me the confidence and trust to give the possibility to play. He’s taken a good way now to fight for his place here.”
What is Jan Vertonghen’s injury?
Mauricio: “He was injured, he worked very hard to try to be fit and play as soon as possible, he played against Fulham, Gent and then we were cautious because he was a little tired, but we trust that he’ll be ready to play on Sunday. He’s still a doubt and we need to assess him tomorrow. He’s in good position like Harry and Toby and I trust tomorrow the tests will be positive and he’ll be available to play.”