Arsenal will look to fend off Everton's challenge for the Premier League's final UEFA Champions League ticket when the Gunners take on Hull City on Sunday in a match that will serve as the ultimate dress rehearsal for next month's FA Cup final.
Both clubs will have their eyes set on silverware when they face off at Wembley Stadium, so Sunday's match will present each team with the perfect opportunity to learn each other's strengths and weaknesses.
But the Gunners are still in the middle of a battle for fourth place in the Premier League table and can ill-afford to drop any points, so Sunday's fixture should be a hard-fought match regardless.
Date: Sunday, April 20
Time: 2.05 p.m. BST/9:05 a.m. ET
Venue: KC Stadium
Arsenal recorded a vital 3-1 win over West Ham United on Tuesday, marking their first Premier League victory in their last five outings. Injuries have rocked the Gunners, but the disastrous 6-0 loss at the hands of Chelsea seems to have played an even bigger part in the team's slide.
However, the Gunners may have recovered in the nick of time, as Everton's shock 3-2 loss at the hands of Crystal Palace has Arsenal back in fourth place, with their fate and the final Champions League ticket in their own hands.
ESPN Stats Info's Paul Carr shows exactly how tight the battle for fourth place is, while also adding the odds of the Gunners holding on to the final Champions League spot, according to the Soccer Power Index:
With Everton's loss, Arsenal's top-four odds are up to 86%, per Soccer Power Index: pic.twitter.com/UxqCX4GNQ6— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) April 16, 2014
The Mirror's John Cross quoted manager Arsene Wenger, who spoke about his side's hopes of regaining fourth spot ahead of the upcoming match against Hull:
We are in a period of the season where every game has a big impact. We just prepare massively well for the next game and try to give your best and hope results around you go for you.
It is, of course, a big encouragement but there's there's a lot of work to do for us. We have a big game at Hull.
Mentally we are in better shape than a week ago because we had two important wins and that puts us in a better condition on the confidence front.
As reported by Cross, Mathieu Flamini and Nacho Monreal should be available for selection, while German midfielder Mesut Ozil could travel with the club following his month-long absence with a hamstring injury. Sky Sports confirmed the news:
Mesut Ozil could return from injury this weekend after a month out & Wenger is predicting big things for his record signing next season #SSN— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) April 17, 2014
Hull's Tom Huddlestone is already looking ahead at the FA Cup final, with the former Tottenham man clearly relishing the opportunity to prolong Arsenal's trophy drought, as reported by the Guardian's James Riach.
The midfielder clearly believes in his club's chances, telling the Guardian:
It would be nice to stop them from winning anything again. We know it is going to be difficult but it is a Cup final and it is probably the best place to be an underdog. We have shown against the big boys in the league that we can match them, although we probably haven't got a lot of the results we deserve.
But Liverpool are flying high at the top of the league and we have beaten them, so hopefully against Arsenal we can do the same. We know if we try and outwork them then we have a chance.
Per WhoScored.com, Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic will return to the squad following their absence during Hull's 5-3 FA Cup semi-final win over Sheffield United, as both players were cup-tied for that match.
Allan McGregor headlines the list of players who will miss this fixture because of injury, and the experienced stopper is joined by Paul McShane and Robbie Brady.
Hull haven't beaten Arsenal since 2008, according to WhoScored, and on paper this match shouldn't even be close. But football isn't played on paper, and Arsenal haven't exactly been hot coming into this tie, with only one win in their last five league matches.
The Gunners have conceded in six consecutive matches, while the hosts have won three straight at home. With Everton breathing down their necks, the pressure will be on Arsenal as they go to the KC Stadium against a Hull team that is very close to avoiding relegation and has little else left to play for.
With hardly any pressure on the Tigers' shoulders, the Gunners will be in for a difficult afternoon.
Prediction: Hull City 1-1 Arsenal