Southampton vs Everton

, 25 April, 0comments  |  Jump to most recent
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It felt improbable eight months ago as Everton embarked on a season of transition from the 11-year Moyes era to a bright new future under Roberto Martinez but Everton sit just one point off the Champions League places with only three games left to play.

Unfortunately, since being demolished at Goodison Park three weeks ago, Arsenal's recent revival — thanks in no small measure to the return to fitness of some of their walking wounded like Aaron Ramsey and Mezut Ozil — combined with their comparatively easy run-in means that that solitary point's difference feels like a chasm.

Roberto Martinez, however, remains convinced that the door remains open for Everton which, should the Gunners slip up against Newcastle, West Brom or Norwich in the next three weeks, it certainly will provided the Blues just keep winning.

The first challenge in that regard is a lunchtime date at Southampton, a fixture that, on paper, looked daunting a few weeks ago but has taken on a different complexion as Mauricio Pochettino's men seem to have eased up over the past couple of matches.

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A combination of Jay Rodriguez's season-ending injury and a general lack of anything substantive to play for has perhaps contributed to a run of three games without a win, including a 4-1 drubbing at Manchester City and a surprise home defeat to Cardiff at the St Mary's Stadium a fortnight ago.

That one-foot-on-the-beach syndrome will hopefully play in Martinez's hands this weekend as he looks to pick up another victory that would keep the pressure on Arsenal who face Alan Pardew's increasingly sorry Newcastle at The Emirates on Monday evening. The Blues will hope to be two points ahead of the Gunners in fourth spot by then when they can hope that the Barcodes can pick up their first points in six matches.

Martinez will be forced into making changes to his starting XI, though, with both Sylvain Distin and Kevin Mirallas picking up injuries in Sunday's win over Manchester United. The Belgian has been ruled out for the remainder of the season and though Distin could receive similarly unwanted news, as things stand he is just sidelined for this weekend.

Phil Jagielka, recovering slowly from a hamstring injury of his own, won't be rushed back to face Southampton but has been pencilled in for next weekend's clash with City at Goodison Park. By default, that means that John Stones and Antolin Alcaraz will re-form the central defensive partnership that looked so solid in the second half against United in between the marauding fullbacks, Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines.

In the attacking third, Mirallas's absence provides an opportunity for either Gerard Deulofeu or Aiden McGeady to impress in a starting role, either wide on the right in the Spaniard's case or on the left in the case of McGeady, with Romelu Lukaku and Steven Naismith possibly starting together up front or the Belgian striker supported instead by Ross Barkley, with Leon Osman sitting deeper as he did against Newcastle.

Though Pocchetino has made his side very difficult to beat, particularly at home, they do lack pace at the front now that Rodriguez is out and at the back where the Blues' pace could expose the likes of Jose Fonte and Dejan Lovren if they can stretch the game out sufficiently in the final third.

Regardless of how Everton set up, they know that they need to treat this fixture like a cup final and engineer a win as a matter of priority. As they have shown over the last nine games, where they have taken an impressive 24 points from a possible 27, they have the talent and the attacking threat to do it. Now they just have to get the job done.

Kick off: 12:45pm
Referee: Michael Oliver

Quotes sourced from ToffeeWeb Match Reports

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