Everton have revived their top 4 bid thanks to the run of five straight victories and the Toffees can now gain the upper hand in the race for the final Champions League berth by defeating rivals Arsenal. The Gunners are winless in last three and they are well aware that another defeat could prove costly in the final count.
Having replaced long-serving manager David Moyes, Roberto Martinez was always going to have a difficult task at Goodison Park, but he has passed the test with flying colours to prove his credentials as one of world’s most talented coaches. It was by no means easy for Everton to keep up with arguably never stronger top 4 sides, but with seven games to go the Toffees stand a realistic chance of clinching Champions League qualification. Five straight victories in the league will have given the team plenty of reason for optimism, but despite taking part in some high-scoring games of late, the Toffees will first try and keep things tight at the back as that would give them the best possible chance of winning the all-important tie. Having held their more illustrious opponents to a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture at the Emirates, Everton will be looking to build on that result as well as the recent impressive run and try to record what would be a crucial victory. There have been some good news for Roberto Martinez as star midfielder Ross Barkley has been passed fit, but the likes of Phil Jagielka and Steven Pienaar are not yet ready to return.
What looked like a very promising season for Arsenal could turn into an utter disappointment unless the Gunners can find a way to end the poor run of results. Heavy defeats in matches against fellow title contenders have denied Arsene Wenger’s side a chance to fight for the Premier League trophy, and they are now in danger of missing out on a top 4 place as well. FA Cup remains club’s best chance to finally end the long trophy drought, but you can imagine the pressure will be sky high when the Gunners take on holders Wigan Athletic at Wembley. Arsenal will first have to negotiate a very important league match against top 4 rivals Everton, where a potential defeat would seriously damage their chances of holding on to a Champions League berth. It is for that reason that Arsenal are expected to adopt a cautious approach and wait to hit the opposition on the break. Aaron Ramsey’s long-awaited return has been a huge boost for everyone at the club, but the Welshman cannot be trusted to make a major contribution having missed three and a half months though injury. Kieran Gibbs faces a fitness test, but Nacho Monreal should be fit to play.
Even if they currently sit four points behind Arsenal, albeit with a game in hand, Everton go into the game in better mood than the opposition seeing as how they are on a five-match winning run. But with the stakes extremely high, neither side are expected to adopt a positive approach, which is why under 2.5 goals looks a good bet here.
Verdict: Under 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 1/1
Bookmaker: William Hill