One way or another, tomorrow's trip to the Emirates is likely to define Everton's season. A win in the FA Cup quarter-final against Arsenal would see the Blues travel to Wembley once again, and put them just two games away from winning a first trophy since 1995. A loss, deserved or not, would provide yet another example of the Toffees falling just short at a crucial moment.
Roberto Martinez's first season in charge has been a qualified success, but with little left to play for in the league, the Cup stands as this year's one real chance of glory. It's time for Everton to step up.
After making a goalscoring return to action against West Ham, Romelu Lukaku will surely replace Steven Naismith up front, while John Stones will likely continue at centre back in place of the recovering Phil Jagielka. With no fresh injuries to contend with, Roberto Martinez will have to decide whether to bring Kevin Mirallas back into the side, or to persist with Gerard Deulofeu, who sparkled in the first half at the weekend.
The major decision the boss faces however, is which goalkeeper he will start with against Arsenal. Joel Robles has played in all of Everton's cup matches so far this season, but Tim Howard remains the undisputed first choice. It will be interesting to see whether Martinez trusts the young Spaniard to shut out the Gunners.
Arsenal meanwhile, were hit this week with the news that Jack Wilshere will be out for six weeks after suffering a hairline fracture in his foot while on international duty with England. Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey are also on Arsene Wenger's list of long-term absentees.
Keys to the Game
A Ross Barkley-inspired Everton managed to take a point away from the Emirates earlier in the season, but Arsenal's home form has been largely excellent since. The Blues should be able to compete in terms of controlling possession and closing down the Gunners' midfield, but they cannot afford to waste opportunities in the manner they have done previously, and must be wary of the wealth of attacking talent that Wenger has at his disposal.
It may take a moment of brilliance, similar to Deulofeu's wonderful strike back in December, to open up the Arsenal defence.
- This will only be the fourth time that Arsenal and Everton have met in the FA Cup, and the first since 1981, when the Toffees were victorious.
- Everton have not won away at Arsenal in their last 19 visits in all competitions, though they have drawn the last two.
- The last team to beat Everton in the FA Cup was Roberto Martinez's Wigan Athletic side, at the quarter-final stage last season.