Preview: Arsenal vs Everton

Premier League: Arsenal’s Champions League qualification at stake against Everton

Arsenal’s Champions League qualification will be on the line when they welcome Everton to Emirates Stadium on Sunday evening.

Sitting one point behind fourth-placed Liverpool, they head into matchday 38, hoping to secure a top-four finish against all odds like they did last season. They need Manchester City, who play Watford, or Liverpool, who host relegated Middlesbrough, to drop points besides three points against the Toffees.

Arsenal have never finished outside top four under Arsene Wenger and, with his managerial acumen now under serious scrutiny, his repute is at stake. Despite his downplaying the effects of finishing out of Champions League places, the Gunners’ finally finishing below local rivals Tottenham Hotspur and missing out on Europe’s elite cup competition will only aggravate the Wenger Out movement.

Everton will only play to finish their season on a high note as the result will not alter their position; they will finish seventh, no matter what the result. However, with many key players looking to attract interest from bigger clubs, one can expect the Toffees to not take the Sunday’s clash nonchalantly.

Play-off possibility

The outcome of this game – and the games at Liverpool and Watford – can result in a one-off game between any two of the three Champions League hopefuls.

Scenario one: Arsenal 1-1 Everton, Liverpool 0-2 Middlesbrough

Scenario two: Watford 3-3 Manchester City, Liverpool 3-0 Middlesbrough

Scenario three: Watford 4-0 Manchester City, Arsenal 1-0 Everton

Team news

Arsenal skipper Laurent Koscielny, who missed the Sunderland win through a calf injury, will start despite having to get daily injections for the chronic tendinitis he has in his feet. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will sit out, hoping to be fit for the FA Cup final against Chelsea. Aaron Ramsey will likely like shake off a thigh injury while Santi Cazorla and Jeff Reine-Adelaide are not expected to feature.

The Sunday’s game will likely be the last game for Ross Barkley as he is looking to sign for bigger clubs in the summer. Long-term absentees Ramiro Funes Mori, Aaron Lennon, Seamus Coleman and Yannick Bolasie will all miss the London trip while Maarten Stekelenburg and James McCarthy remain doubts.

Player to watch

The result of this game can decide who emerges the Golden Boot winner of the season as it will see current top-scorer Romelu Lukaku (24) lock horns with second top-scorer Alexis Sanchez (23). Harry Kane and Diego Costa are on 22 and 20 goals, respectively, so it is safe to assume the result at Emirates Stadium will decide who wins the much-coveted individual prize in the Premier League.

With the Chilean, who has scored 28 and created 19 goals in 45 starts this season, scoring four goals in three league games, one can even expect him to usurp the Everton talisman for the award.

Match stats

·         Everton have defeated Arsenal only twice in their 19 recent meetings (D6 L11).

·         Arsenal have won more Premier League games against Everton (29) than they have against any other side.

·         In fact, Everton have lost 93 times to Arsenal in the league, the most defeats by one club to another in English league history.

·         Everton have conceded exactly two goals in four of their last five league games against Arsenal.

·         Olivier Giroud has scored five goals in his last seven games against Everton in all competitions.

Recent meeting

The reverse fixture at Goodison Park ended 2-1, with Everton claiming maximum points. Coleman’s header levelled out Alexis’ opener as the teams went into the second half 1-1. Ashley Williams’ late header ensured the home side emerged victors.

The game saw Everton skipper Phil Jagielka receive his marching orders for a second bookable offence, but the Gunners could not capitalize on their one-man advantage as he only left the pitch three minutes into added time in the second half.