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Prediction: Everton vs Arsenal

Everton recorded a 3-0 triumph in the same fixture last term to improve their top 4 chances, but the Toffees ultimately failed to keep up with their more illustrious rivals. The Toffees will be hoping for more of the same after twice squandering the lead against Leicester, whilst Arsenal need to show some improvement if they are to prove their title credentials at Goodison Park.

Roberto Martinez’s first season in charge offered plenty of positives as his charges came very close to defying the odds and clinching the final Champions League berth. It was the poor finish to the league campaign that denied the Toffees a top 4 finish, and it looks they could face a much tougher task this term. Everton did well to keep hold of all key men while tying down Romelu Lukaku and Gareth Barry to permanent deals, as well as adding Muhamed Besic and Christian Atsu to their ranks. Martinez was very unfortunate to have England starlet Ross Barkley pick up a serious injury in the final stage of pre-season preparations, but Aiden McGeady and Stephen Naismith have proved they can be very good replacements. The two attackers stepped up the plate against Leicester as Romelu Lukaku continues to search for his goalscoring form, but it was the back line that surprisingly let the team down, conceding two cheap goals at King Power Stadium. The Toffees will have to be at their best if they want to get something from the Arsenal clash, but with neither side even close to their top form, chances are we will see a very cautious encounter at Goodison. Seamus Coleman could be recalled to the starting line-up, but Ross Barkley and Bryan Oviedo continue to miss out.

Arsenal led the title chase in the Premier League in the early exchanges and while they eventually had to battle for a top 4 finish, the Gunners were not that far away from the top of the standings on the final day of the league campaign. The FA Cup trophy, meanwhile, acted as a major confidence boost and forced manager Arsene Wenger to add more quality players to the ranks in the summer. The first signs have been more than positive as Alexis Sanchez, Calum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy all look like very good signings, while David Ospina could have a role to play once he recovers from injury. With some key men missing a big chunk of pre-season training and others returning from injury, nobody was surprised to see Arsenal produce two under-par performances after they completely outclassed Manchester City in the Community Shield match. The likes of Ozil, Mertesacker and Podolski are finally set to return into contention, but now Mikel Arteta, Kieran Gibbs and Yaya Sanogo are out injured. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could start after impressing against Besiktas, with Santi Cazorla likely to be dropped.

Conclusion

While Everton ran out 3-0 winners last time out, chances are we will see a much closer game on Saturday afternoon, and with neither team too impressive up front at the moment, a low-scoring match should be on the cards. I certainly would not be surprised if the clash ends goalless.

Verdict: Under 2.5 goals

Best Odds: 19/20

Bookmaker: William Hill

Fri 22 August, 2014
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