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The England international says the Merseyside derby could define the Toffees' season, and that securing European qualification is a must for the club to carry on improving

Everton left-back Leighton Baines says his club need to finish above local rivals Liverpool to carry on improving, with the two sides meeting at Anfield on Sunday.

The Toffees haven't beaten their local rivals at Anfield since 1999, and are hoping to finish above the Reds for the second successive season for the first time in over 50 years.

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However, Baines says that the game has more significance than just bragging rights over their nearest rivals, with both sides still in the hunt for European football.

"It means a lot to people to see Everton finishing ahead of them, and I think in terms of the balance of power on Merseyside at least, it is important.

"To do it a couple of seasons running bears some significance. It is important for Everton in how people look at us, and how attractive it makes us as a club.

"This game is about bragging rights really, but in terms of helping us towards that European place, then as I've said, it can be really important for the future of the club."

The England international believes that a European place could help to keep manager David Moyes at the club, as well as players like Marouane Fellaini, who has been rumoured to leave.

Asked if Europe was the number one target for Everton this season, Baines stated: "I think yes, definitely, for the ambitions of the top players we have here and also the manager, it is hugely important we finish in Europe.

"We have a group of top international players now, and we all want to be playing at the top level. If we can get Europe it may help us with that ambition - and in the transfer market as well.

"It makes the club a bit more appealing and it could be a bit easier to make those signings. It would be a big achievement for a club like Everton."

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