With one Leighton winning today at the Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree, another Leighton and Everton are preparing for the most important fence in the race for the top four.
Everton will go one point behind Arsenal if they beat Arsene Wenger’s side tomorrow afternoon, with a game in hand. Given the Gunners’ fixture list, it is absolutely vital that the Toffees get something out of tomorrow’s fixture to give themselves every chance of finishing in a Champions League spot at the end of the season. If the Blues win they will not only be hot on Arsenal’s tail in regards to points but they will also be ahead of them on goal difference.
For the hosts, both Steven Pienaar and captain Phil Jagielka will miss tomorrow’s encounter with knee and hamstring injuries, respectively. Lacina Troare doesn’t make the squad with his hamstring injury and with Darron Gibson taking part in light training he is still a few weeks away from first team football. Ross Barkley is expected to be available however, despite coming off with a calf injury last Sunday away at Fulham.
The Gunners will have fit again Aaron Ramsey in their squad as the Welshman has recovered from a thigh injury. But the Londoners will be without long-term absentees Theo Walcott and Abou Diaby, both with knee injuries, as well as Mesut Ozil (hamstring), Laurent Koscienly (calf), Jack Wilshere (foot) and Serge Gnabry (knee). Even though Nacho Monreal should be fit to play tomorrow, Arsene Wenger still has a problem at left-back as Kieran Gibbs is a doubt with an ankle injury.
Goalkeepers: Howard and Robles
Defenders: Alcaraz, Baines, Browning, Coleman, Distin, Garbutt and Stones.
Midfielders: Barkley, Barry, Deulofeu, McCarthy, McGeady, Mirallas and Osman.
Forwards: Lukaku and Naismith.
Goalkeepers: Fabianski and Szczesny.
Defenders: Bellerin, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Monreal, Sagna and Vermaelen.
Midfielders: Arteta, Cazorla, Flamini, Kallstrom, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey and Rosicky.
Forwards: Giroud, Podolski and Sanogo.
The last three Premier League games between these two sides have been drawn
The Blues have lost eight and not won in the last 13 league encounters with Arsenal.
Everton’s record home and away losses in the Premier League are both against Arsenal. The home record; 1-6 August 2009 and the away record; 7-0 May 2005.
After 31 games no team has had 60 points or more and not finished in the top four, both Everton and Arsenal have surpassed this points tally.
In one of the last 22 league games against Arsenal, Everton have scored more than once.
The Toffees have won the most points in the league from goals scored in the final 10 minutes of matches this season, with 15 points.
Everton have passed their best ever points total after 31 games in their Premier League history with 60 points, surpassing the 57 points in the 2007-08 season.
In their last 10 league games Arsenal have only won three.
Lukas Podolski has the best chance conversion rate of any player who has 10-plus goals in the Premier League over the last two seasons with scoring 33% of his attempts.
Arsenal are the only team not to have an opposition player sent off against them this season in the Premier League.
Even though a defeat would not mathematically end Everton’s challenge for a top four finish, Arsenal’s remaining fixtures after tomorrow would give them a big advantage if they were to win at Goodison Park. In the same breath a win for the Toffees wouldn’t definitely mean Champions League, it would be a massive step mind you, but the Blues would still need to match Arsenal’s results to the end of the season and win their game in head to definitely ensure a fourth place finish. The remaining games for Roberto Martinez’s side are all fixtures that can go either way, either given the side Everton face or the predicament that team faces; i.e. being at the bottom of the table and fighting for their lives. Additionally a draw wouldn’t be the worst result, but to have Champions League football in their own hands, Everton will need to win the game and then the hard work only just starts with the six remaining games.