Arsenal and Everton will step up their preparations for the new Premier League season when facing off in the final of the Barclays Asia Trophy at the Singapore National Stadium on Saturday. With the Premier League kickoff just three weeks away, both teams emerged victorious in their semifinal matches earlier in the week, although in very different circumstances.
Arsenal faced some initial resistance from a Singapore Select XI, but eventually eased to a resounding 4-0 victory. The win was spearheaded by a hat trick from 19-year-old striker Chuba Akpom, who was one of a number of inexperienced players to be fielded in Arsenal’s opening preseason fixture. But manager Arsene Wenger has already revealed that it will be all change against Everton, with those players not involved on Wednesday set to start. That means that Arsenal’s sole summer signing so far, Petr Cech, is set to make his first appearance in an Arsenal shirt, while Mesut Özil, Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey should also be involved. And Wenger has stated that he expects it to be a competitive fixture to bring to a close a tournament that he feels has been beneficiary.
“I must say that I’m surprised by the number of fans and overall the Asia Trophy is a good surprise for us because it was on a good pitch, good training facilities and the quality of the games was surprisingly good at this stage of the season,” he said in his pre-match press conference.
“The first half was very, very competitive between Stoke and Everton. The challenges were absolutely full Premier League challenges and I expect that from Everton. They came out of a season where they did less well than the season before and they will certainly want to start strong. They look focused to prepare well.”
Everton finished a disappointing 11th last season in the Premier League, but emerged victorious in a penalty shootout against Stoke City in the Asia Trophy semifinals following a goalless draw in 90 minutes. And Everton manager Roberto Martinez believes that facing a Premier League rival will again add an extra element of intensity to Saturday’s final.
“We need to remember that the final is a pre-season game and the priority is getting the physical levels of the players and the fitness levels of the team as high as we can,” he said, via Everton’s official website. “But we are in a trophy and we want to win.
“It brings the game to a different level with extra meaning to everything you do. You could see from the Stoke game that it wasn’t a normal pre-season game and that benefitted immensely from that. From our point of view, whoever is out there in an Everton shirt, we expect a certain level of performance and quality in our play.”
Martinez will have to wait on the fitness of James McCarthy after the midfielder suffered an ankle knock against Stoke. McCarthy is also one of the Everton players to be linked with a transfer away from the club while Everton have been in Singapore, although Martinez has insisted the Republic of Ireland international is an essential part of his future plans. Everton have also reportedly rejected an offer from Chelsea for young defender John Stones, while Martinez has denied making a bid for Manchester United’s Jonny Evans.
Kickoff time: 8:30 a.m. EDT
TV channel: NBC Universo
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra