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Everton vs Arsenal: Match Preview

Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

After the euphoria of last weekend’s FA Cup win over Chelsea, Everton must put thoughts of Wembley to one side and look to revive a flagging Premier League campaign with a win over Arsenal.

That memorable victory over Guus Hiddink’s side at Goodison Park has ensured the season at least has a sense of a direction, with all roads now leading to that date with West Ham or Man Utd on April 23rd.

Defeat would have effectively ended the campaign, with Everton rooted in mid-table a lack of motivation could have caused things to drift towards a muted conclusion.

Thank our lucky stars for Romelu Lukaku.

The big Belgian’s imperious match-winning display left Goodison purring and there’s frenzied anticipation as to what he can achieve between now and the end of the season.

Supporting Everton has been something of a rollercoaster this year, with occasional upturns in form being quickly followed up by crushing disappointment.

Those peaks and troughs have become more extreme as the season has progressed – contrast the Chelsea game with the pain of that West Ham defeat just seven days before.

Whenever they have shown signs of progress they take two steps back the following week.

I hope – and I feel like I have said this too many times already this season – that the win over Chelsea can finally prove the catalyst for the side to end the season on a high and at least achieve a respectable league position as well as glory in the FA Cup.

Don’t hold your breath though…..

The opposition

Arsenal head into this game under something of a cloud after once again embarking on their annual March slump.

Arsene Wenger’s side have developed a habit of crashing out of the Champions League last-16. Their midweek defeat to Barcelona ensured they have exited the competition at that stage for the sixth year in a row.

That has often coincided with a collapse in domestic form that eviscerates any lingering hopes of winning the title.

The past two seasons has brought the consolation of winning the FA Cup but last week’s quarter-final defeat to Watford has sparked open revolt among large swathes of the support, who feel Wenger should now step down after nearly 20 years in charge.

They remain in the hunt for the Premier League, though the 11-point gap between themselves and leaders Leicester looks too big a gap even with a game in hand.

A more pressing concern is the presence of West Ham, who are just three points behind the Gunners and could rise into the top four if results go their way on Saturday.

The last time the two sides met Arsenal came out on top 2-1 thanks to headers from Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny as well as some less than convincing goalkeeping from Tim Howard.

The previous meeting at Goodison came in August 2014 and saw Everton storm into a 2-0 lead thanks to Seamus Coleman and Steven Naismith, only to concede two goals in the final seven minutes and draw 2-2 (sound familiar?).

Team news

Everton will be without Gareth Barry following his late sending off against Chelsea last weekend. Muhamed Besic is likely to replace him for his first start since January after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Kevin Mirallas again misses out following his dismissal against West Ham a fortnight ago.

Bryan Oviedo is doubtful as he continues to recover from the after-affects of a virus. Thankfully Leighton Baines is managing an ankle problem well enough to be able to keep his place.

Arsenal’s injury list extended still further on Wednesday when Mathieu Flamini suffered a hamstring injury at the Nou Camp.

Flamini joins Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Petr Cech, Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the sidelines.

Final word

I’m loathed to make a prediction in this one given the topsy-turvy nature of Everton’s season and their dismal home record.

However, I cling to the hope that last week’s win has given them a bit of momentum and that they may well be playing Arsenal at the right time.

There is semi-final places to play for as well, giving the players extra motivation to push on for the win.

Predicted started XI: Robles, Baines, Funes Mori, Jagielka, Coleman, Besic, McCarthy, Cleverley, Barkley, Lennon, Lukaku.