Tim Howard believes Everton can qualify for the Champions League

Tim Howard: Feels Everton have a chance to finish in the top four

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Tim Howard says Everton will fight to keep all their best players in January as they aim to finish in the top four of the Premier League.

The Toffees have traditionally got off to slow starts in recent years but this term they have had a flyer and Saturday's 3-1 victory over Southampton kept them in second place.

Goalkeeper Howard believes it is the strongest squad Everton have had since he joined in 2006 and says they will keep pushing for a UEFA Champions League place, even if it is far too early at this stage to get excited.

"The Champions League is a real, viable option for us. Very difficult, but it is viable," he told Sky Sports News. "We talk about it, we achieved it a few years ago and we have the ability on form to do it. But it is a long way off to May.

"This is my seventh season. I think it is the best squad we have had, in terms of quality from top to bottom.

"You would have to ask the manager his opinion on that but I get the feeling from being around the guys in training and in matches that it is the most talented squad we have had.

"Does that give us the best chance? Maybe, because our grit and determination is always there and that is an Everton trait. Maybe this could be our year."

The likes of Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines have been linked with moves away from Goodison Park, and Howard feels it is vital they stay if Everton are to fulfil their ambitions.

He said: "The one thing I hang my hat on is that our manager will dig his heels in and if you are going to pluck our best players you will have to pay a high price.

"He has also shown that if he gets the right money in the transfer window from those sales that he buys very well, but we do not want to lose Marouane Fellaini or Leighton Baines or any of our top players."