Everton V Arsenal Preview
Arsenal make a trip to Merseyside on Saturday to face the Premiership's in-form team. No, not Liverpool - Everton.
The Blues' are in fine form at the moment. Their form has seen them climb to 6th in the league, and they currently sit just three points outside the all important fourth and final Champions League spot, currently occupied by local rivals Liverpool.
Everton's run of 4 wins in the last 6 Premiership matches has seen only Manchester United walk away from a game with them with all 3 points.
While some might say Arsenal's form has been poor this month, they have three wins in their last 6 Premiership games. Those wins were against a Chelsea team that had lost only one game under Avram Grant, a Tottenham team that has found belif and something resembling form under Juande Ramos and an Aston Villa side that beat Chelsea 2-0 earlier in the season.
The pressure is on Arsenal to get a result after losing top spot to Manchester United on Boxing Day. The Gunners could be four ponits behind United if they win at West Ham earlier in the day.
However, if things were to go Arsenal's way then they could be back on top of the Premiership com dinner time.
Everton boss David Moyes spoke of the need to get results against all teams, not just the top 4. He told Everton TV: 'Everybody says you will be judged with how you get on against Manchester United and Arsenal - I do think you have to do well against them but I still think you have got to beat your other teams. The teams at the top are very hard to beat even when they are not playing well.
'I have to say Arsenal have looked a really good team - they have hardly had a blip all season and have been really consistent. That shows how well Manchester United have played.
'It will be tight but I think Liverpool and Chelsea will be there come the end of the season but there is a long way to go until the Championship is decided.'
Arsene Wenger says he is pleased with Arsenal's start to the season, but thinks that Arsenal will need to up their points average in the second half of the season to win the League: 'We have 44 points from 19 games in total.If you multiply that we would have 88. It`s not bad.
'I don`t know if 88 would be enough to win the title. At the moment it doesn`t look like it.
'But we are one point short of Manchester United and have lost once in 19 games. So it is down to who is the most consistent now. Even Chelsea and Liverpool can come back into it.
'[In pre-season] everybody seemed to be predicting we would be in the second half of the table. I feel we are on schedule now but we can do better and that is what we want to achieve.'
Everton Team News:
Leon Osman, Alan Stubbs and Leighton Baines are all out of action for The Blues.
Thomas Graveson is also doubtful with a knee injury. Manager David Moyes is yet to make a decision on former Man United utility player Phill Neville who is suffering from a stomach bug.
Player to watch: Yakubu
The Nigerian striker has been in and out of form this season. He has had games where he's been totally out of his league, but there's also been times when he's been outstanding.
He's in a purple patch at the moment and has hit 11 goals in all this season.
Arsenal Team News:
Robin Van Persie is still out with an injury described by Arsenal only as 'a muscular problem.'
Theo Walcott is still a doubt with flu, while Denilson is still suspended after his red card agaisnt Everton.
William Gallas is fit to play, despite picking up a foot injury at Portsmouth on boxing day.
Player to watch: Cesc Fabregas
Arsenal's very own little matador has suffered a dip in form by his own high standards. I think he's due an outstanding performance and a goal.
Arsenal's referee for Saturday hails from Yorkshire. Martin Atkinson will officiate his 14th game of the season. In his 13 matches so far this season he has dished out 41 yellow cards and just 1 red.
I'm going to have to go for an Everton win. They are in fantastic form and I think their over-physical game will be too much for an Arsenal team that must be getting tired. 2-1 Everton.