Arsenal's FA Cup defeat at Blackburn caused consternation further afield than the red half of north London. The blue half of Merseyside wasn't too happy either.
Everton have their sights set on a Uefa Cup place and a top-six finish in the Premiership would secure their reward for an industrious season. However, if the FA Cup Final is contested by two of the Premiership's top four then seventh place will be sufficient for David Moyes' side to book their European tour.
Three points against Arsenal will help Everton's mission and they have cause for optimism after holding the Gunners to a draw at Emirates Stadium earlier this season.
We spoke to Dave Prentice, Chief Sports Writer of the Liverpool Echo, ahead of Sunday's clash at Goodison Park. Read on find out who has excelled for Moyes' side this season, why Arsenal's Carling Cup run brought a smile to Everton faces and why the home side will miss Tim Cahill so much this weekend.
THE STORY SO FAR
"A Uefa Cup place is a real possibility but a lot depends on how many positions are available via the Premiership. We were absolutely gutted when Arsenal were knocked out of the FA Cup because a final contested by the teams who are likely to finish in the top four will open up another Uefa Cup place lower down the table. At the moment the top six is fine for Everton and seventh will be OK if Chelsea and Manchester United reach the FA Cup final.
"As for Everton's season as a whole it has been OK really. David Moyes is celebrating his fifth anniversary this week, it's the longest managerial reign at Goodison Park since Howard Kendall's first spell in charge. But Moyes doesn't just bring longevity, Everton are now in a better position since he took over. There were perennial relegation fights before but Moyes has led Everton to seventh, four and could finish in the top six this season. There have been some outstanding performances this season, notably the win at Tottenham with 10 men and the 3-0 win against Liverpool, Everton's biggest win in the Merseyside derby for 42 years. The only disappointment as ever is the lack of a decent Cup run and Arsenal have been partly responsible for that of course."
MAN OF THE MOMENT
"Everton's player of the season is Joleon Lescott without a shadow of a doubt. The other obvious contenders are Andy Johnson, a consistent scorer all season, and Mikel Arteta, another guy the fans adore. Arteta is a throwback for old Evertonians to days when they could hold up the 'School of Science' reputation. But for me it has to be Lescott, he has been outstanding. He missed the entirety of Wolves' only Premiership season with a knee injury but he hasn't missed a game this season. It's not just power and solidity which he brings but class as well. Everton look pretty secure at the back with Lescott alongside Joseph Yobo. Moyes has suggested that Steve McClaren should take a look at Lescott but centre back is a position in which England are very strong."
"Moyes has done exactly the same as last season. He operates with a very small squad and what he tries to do is bring in quality rather than quantity. Johnson, Lescott and Tim Howard came in and exhausted Everton's transfer funds so come the January transfer window they were restricted to bringing in Manuel Fernandes on loan from Benfica. He has played four games and looks pretty bright. When Fernandes and Arteta are in the side Everton look more expansive."
"Tim Cahill is the big miss with a metatarsal injury. It affects the whole balance of the team because Everton have played a 4-4-1-1 formation very effectively with Cahill the ideal link between midfield and attack. Everton don't have a like-for-like replacement for Cahill and he's out for the rest of the season. Typically he will probably be back for Australia's Asia Cup campaign."
"I think Moyes will try and second-guess what Wenger will do so he might go with a 4-5-1, which worked well at Emirates Stadium. Of course he hasn't got Cahill this time so perhaps he will play James Beattie and hope he has one of his good days. Leon Osman could come in for Cahill with Arteta, Carsley and Fernandes also in midfield. It will probably be Neville, Lescott, Yobo and Naysmith at the back."
IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL
"It's the same old story and you must be sick of hearing it but everybody loves watching Arsenal play football. They are looked upon even more fondly here after those Cup results at Liverpool in January. Sometimes Arsenal seem to self-destruct but they are one of the neutrals' favourites. When the midfield clicks it is magnificent to watch. As for Emirates Stadium it's a wonderful arena with magnificent facilities but at the moment it lacks the character of Highbury."
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