How Everton Will Line Up Against Arsenal

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How Everton Will Line Up Against Arsenal
Michael Regan/Getty Images

For the second time in a matter of weeks, Everton face a crunch tie with Arsenal in a game set to define their season.

This time, however, instead of an FA Cup semi-final at stake, the Gunners visit Goodison Park as direct rivals for a top-four finish.

Everton's five consecutive winsthe club's best run since 2002/03have transformed fading Champions League dreams into genuine optimism, pouring increased relevance on Sunday's encounter.

Roberto Martinez's side currently sit four points behind their fourth-placed opponents, having played one game fewer. A win would put destiny in their own hands and force many to take their challenge far more seriously.

Kirsty Wigglesworth

These sides have already met twice this season, both times at the Emirates.

Martinez's side emerged with a creditable 1-1 draw in the Premier League game before enduring a deflating 4-1 defeat in the FA Cup.

Arsenal have not suffered a loss in five visits to Goodison Park and will aim to extend that run on Sunday.

 

Team News

Everton's primary concerns surround the fitness of Phil Jagielka and Ross Barkley.

Club captain, Jagielka, has been injured since February's defeat to Chelsea and, as revealed during his pre-match press conference, Martinez does not envisage his return.

There is more positive news regarding Barkley, who Martinez believes will make the squad, via EvertonFC.com:

Ross has had two very good days since (the Fulham fixture). We're going to assess him today and I hope he can join the group today and tomorrow.
 
At the moment, we are very much positive he will be available for the squad.

Elsewhere, Steven Pienaar, Arouna Kone, Darron Gibson, Bryan Oviedo and Lacina Traore remain longer-term absentees.

 

Selection

With that team news considered, here's a look at Martinez's potential starting XI:

EFC vs. AFC - Football tactics and formations

Jagielka's absence will see the back five unaltered for a sixth successive Premier League game.

John Stones will deputise for his skipper, partnering Seamus Coleman, Sylvain Distin and Leighton Baines in front of Tim Howard in goal.

Which player not in this XI should start?

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Gareth Barry and James McCarthy will start in central midfield, leaving the key decisions surrounding those ahead of them.

With Pienaar out, Martinez must choose three from Barkley, Kevin Mirallas, Steven Naismith, Aiden McGeady, Gerard Deulofeu and Leon Osman for his attacking spots behind the striker.

Martinez enjoys combining direct options with a player more inclined to construct phases, roam around and interchange with others.

For this reason, Osman is likely to keep his place, providing Martinez's favoured balance in Pienaar's absence.

If fit, Barkley will then continue in the middle, tasked with exploiting the space between Arsenal's lines. If not, Naismith's match-winning cameo against Fulham makes him favourite to start.

A well-rested Mirallas will then supply a direct option from the right, leaving Deulofeu and McGeady to make an impact from the bench.

Romelu Lukaku will once again lead the line.

 

Key Battles

Kirsty Wigglesworth

The battle for midfield supremacy will prove decisive in this match, especially the contest pitting Barry and McCarthy against Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini.

During the 1-1 draw, Barry produced one of his finest displays of the season.

He passed more (70) than any other player, enabling the Toffees to dominate possession (56 percent), and was a feisty presence off the ball, winning the ball back seven times.

Michael Regan/Getty Images

McCarthy was also impressive and both gave their side a platform to dominate, from which the Toffees arguably should have won.

During the 4-1 defeat, Arsenal's core was far more imposing, making Barry far less of a focal point. His passing declined (54) with Arteta, Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil all able to gain supremacy in this area.

Flamini was also a big factor, missing from the two sides' earlier clash.

If Everton cannot dictate a brisk, fluid tempo from midfield, they will struggle to create enough chances to win.

Elsewhere, Lukaku was actually a bigger threat during the 4-1 defeat, enjoying the extra freedom provided by Laurent Koscielny's absence.

The Frenchman nullified the striker during December's draw and Lukaku must capitalise on his likely absence again. 

Prediction: Everton 1-0 Arsenal

 

Statistics via WhoScored.com

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