Everton are under big pressure to finish in fourth because it means more to the club than ever before.
They could lose several key players this summer if they’re not in the Champions League and none more important than Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka.
Both central defenders are hugely important to Everton because they add solidity, experience and shape to the Everton back four and they look a much better side with them in the team.
If Everton were forced to sell Baines then there are several top class left backs around in the Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and more who could do an adequate job.
However, breaking up a central defensive pairing could be a lot more damaging and a lot more difficult to repair over the following weeks and months.
Both players are in the latter stages of their careers which means if they are planning on playing in the Champions League, it will be now more than any other time.
Distin is 35-yars-old and Jagielka is 30-years-old and the problem the Toffees face is what to do if another club, with Champions League football, comes in for them.
Neither player has ever tried to force a move away from Everton and they are unlikely to jump ship in the summer but that temptation to face an unknown challenge, could be too difficult to resist.
If Everton win the majority of their final matches then they should be able to get into fourth place over some very competitive and difficult teams to play against.
Out of the two Distin is much less likely to go because of his age and the fact he may not know how long he has left in the game and he may not want the upheaval involved of settling in at a new side.
Jagielka is the one to worry about more for Everton fans. A move may boost his England career. Although this isn’t in doubt, it could give him a better chance of wearing the Three Lions more consistently, and propel him into being first choice heading into a World Cup season.
He’s also at the sort of age which suggests he has the ideal level of experience to move to an established Champions League side. It will be interesting to see what happens.
Johnny Heitinga is also one who could move on, he almost did last summer and has been in poor form of late.
The interesting aspect is, Everton are already looking to the future with John Stones. But as they look to replace Distin, could they cast an eye to the past and bring back Joleon Lescott to reshape their backline?
Do you see either of them leaving? Fourth place or not…
image: © wonker