With just three games of the Premier League season left to go, David Moyes and Everton have the opportunity to finish the season ahead of next door neighbours, Liverpool, for a second successive campaign, a feat not achieved by the Toffees for over 50 years.
While the Reds have ridden a rollercoaster of uncertainty and change on and off the pitch over the last few years, their counterparts from across Stanley Park are the model of consistency and stability. Both clubs go into this weekend’s Merseyside derby at Anfield with the confidence that they can put one over on the other in the race to be the city’s top dog.
Anyone who watched the crucial Premier League clash between Arsenal and Everton at the Emirates Stadium would have been struck by several things. Firstly, despite a lack of tangible chances, it was an entertaining 0-0 draw full of tension and drama, fought out by two teams pursuing football’s ultimate financial prize: Champions League qualification.
Secondly, the Toffees display of grit and determination and no lack of class on the ball, showed that they are growingly capable of attaching themselves to the coat tails of those with better resources at the head of the Premier League pack. David Moyes’ side probed, jousted and harried with a side supposedly their betters and, until the final 20 minutes when the Gunners quite rightly tried to assert dominance on home turf, were equally likely to nick the vital three points in this footballing blockbuster.
Arsenal and Everton go into Tuesday night’s Premier League clash knowing that defeat could deal a crushing blow to their hopes of reaching the Champions League qualification places. Arsene Wenger’s side, who currently occupy third spot, are four points and three places ahead of David Moyes’ charges. These two teams go into this fixture in good form, and with their chief rivals, Chelsea and particularly Tottenham, stuttering as the finishing line approaches, both managers know the significance of a positive or negative result at the Emirates Stadium.
Six weeks ago the Gunners and the Toffees were up against it in the battle for the top four and it seems that, not for the first time in the last few years, they are both beginning to kick in the turbo when the pressure is off. Now, this may seem like a strange thing to say given that the pressure to reach the Champions League, especially in Arsenal’s case, is immense, but when they needed to step up when silverware was on offer, both teams were found wanting.
As the race for the top four of the Premier League comes nicely to the boil, the saga took yet another intriguing twist during Tottenham’s Europe League clash with FC Basel.
Spurs have been in and around the Champions League qualification places all season and since the turn of the year have been ultra-consistent as they have even been pressing for third in their attempts not to suffer the disappointment of last season when they missed out on a spot in the continent’s top club competition, albeit thanks to Chelsea’s amazing exploits in Munich.
Andre Villas-Boas’ side were riding the crest of a wave going into Thursday night’s game with the Swiss outfit at White Hart Lane with the undoubted star of the show, Gareth Bale, in particularly devastating form. The Welsh winger is widely tipped to be named PFA Player of the Year for a second time. However, things did not pan out quite how AVB would have liked as the Tottenham freight train encountered an especially bumpy section of track.
The Champions League Quarter Finals kick-off on Tuesday with two intriguing ties involving four of Europe’s top dogs.
In the French capital, Paris St. Germain welcome the mighty Barcelona to the Parc des Princes in a clash of new money and heritage. PSG coach, Carlo Ancelotti, could field the last remaining English participant in the competition, David Beckham. The former Manchester United, Real Madrid and L.A. Galaxy star is being tipped to prolong his stay in Paris after initially signing a five month contract. Undoubtedly his commercial and promotional pull have influenced this deal rather than his ability to boss the midfield on Europe’s most elevated stage.
A more likely starter in a line-up sprinkled with ex-Barca players is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose time in Catalonia was short and often punctuated with tension between himself and then manager, Pep Guardiola. The Swede would love nothing more than to get one over on the club who shipped him off to AC Milan after just one season.