Everton manager David Moyes has dismissed as “a load of rubbish” suggestions his side’s season hinges on tomorrow’s FA Cup replay at Chelsea.
A dismal loss at Bolton last weekend left the Toffees just three points above the Barclays Premier League relegation zone and highlighted the inconsistency which has hampered their frustrating campaign.
The FA Cup would appear to offer Moyes the best hope of salvaging something from a season which promised much but the Scot does not want to view it that way.
Everton face a stern test in the fourth round of the competition after fighting out a 1-1 draw with the holders when they initially met at Goodison Park three weeks ago.
Moyes said: “It is no different from the way I felt a few weeks ago.
“If you ask, ‘Does this make or break your season, is this your season over?’ - that’s a load of rubbish.
“The season is never over, you have got to play all the games that are put in front of you.
“Hopefully we will keep going through and get as far as we can but if we get knocked out, we get knocked out.
“We still have to play our league games and with the position we are in, we need to pick up more points.
“The cup becomes important but no more important than it was before.”
Moyes is demanding a response from his team after a performance at the Reebok Stadium he described as one of the worst in his nine years at the club.
The Scot took full responsibility for the 2-0 defeat but said he might need to “toughen up” on the players.
He added: “We have tended to respond after a bad game, tended to do something about it. Let’s hope we do that again.
“I think up until the game at Bolton we hadn’t done an awful lot wrong.
“Obviously we would like to be further up the league but I think we have been playing fine.
“If we can put the Reebok last Sunday away and move on and play the way we have been, we’ll be Okay.
“You want to get through but it is tough. The tie has turned in the favour of Chelsea because we have to go down there and we know how hard that is.
“No-one should under-estimate them, they are a very good side.”
Chelsea have won the FA Cup for the past two seasons - beating Everton in the 2009 final - and not lost in the competition since a shock defeat by Barnsley in the 2008 quarter-finals.
Their current form, however, remains indifferent and, with them slipping behind the pace in the Premier League, Moyes is hoping they are now making the Champions League their top priority.
The Londoners face Copenhagen in the last-16 stage of that competition on Tuesday while they still have much to do to guarantee qualification for it next year.
Moyes said: “I think they are admitting the Champions League is the thing they are aiming for.
“It does look as if the league may be beyond them, but they will also have a challenge to make sure they are in a Champions League position. I don’t think they could ever afford to let that go.
“They haven’t lost an FA Cup game for a few years now so, let’s put it in perspective - it is a really tough job.
“But it is hard for those clubs to keep competing on all fronts and let’s hope they decide the FA Cup is the one they are not that keen on.”
Everton are without their goalscorer from the first game, Louis Saha, who is still troubled by a hamstring injury.
Midfielder Jack Rodwell is ahead of schedule in his recovery from a groin problem but the game comes too soon.
Moyes said: “There are going to be periods in the game when we have to dig deep, hang in and stick with it but there is a bit of confidence in our play and we saw that when we played them at Goodison.
“We need to have a similar performance, maybe with a bit more luck.”