Apr 6, 2014, 6:17 AM EDT
Sunday’s the day Arsenal affirms it hold on fourth or squanders it, an outcome that was unfathomable of a month ago. It’s also the day the dreamer meats the cynic in East London, with Brendan Rodgers‘ looking to reclaim first in the Premier League.
It’s all part of a Sunday doubleheader that begins at 8:00 a.m. Eastern, with fifth place Everton hosting Arsenal before West Ham United welcomes Liverpool. Both games will be broadcast on NBCSN and streamed via NBC Sport Live Extra.
After Saturday’s action, Liverpool finds itself in second place, with Chelsea’s win over Stoke temporarily allowing the Blues to reclaim first. Only one point back and holding the goal difference advantage, Liverpool will go top with a draw at Upton Park, maintaining a key points edge it has on third place Manchester City ahead of the Citizens visit to Anfield next weekend.
Before that, Arsenal looks to reestablish some distance between itself and Everton. With a game-in-hand, the Toffees are within four points of fourth. Should they win at at Goodison Park, Roberto Martínez‘s team will be within one, have the goal difference advantage, and maintain a match in hand.
Here’s a closer look at Sunday’s action:
Everton vs. Arsenal, 8:00 a.m. Eastern, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra
- Toffees tied for the fewest losses in the league: Five.
- Arsenal with one win in its last five league games.
- Gunners won teams’ last meeting, 4-1 on Mar. 8 (FA Cup).
The last time Everton beat Arsenal, Thierry Henry was still leading the Gunners, James Beattie scored the match’s only goal, and teams were only allowed to name five players to their benches. It was Jan. 21, 2006, the only time in the last 11 years the Toffees have taken pull points from the Gunners.
It puts Sunday’s game in perspective. Everton may have an opportunity to take control of the race for fourth, but to do so it would have to do something that’s so rare that only Leon Osman and Tony Hibbert were around the last time it happened. Throughout David Moyes‘ entire tenure at Goodison, the Toffees only beat Arsenal once, yet in Roberto Martinez‘s first year in charge, form suggests Everton could match that mark. As Martínez’s side has surged toward the top four, Arsenal has dropped away from the title race.
History, however, can be a daunting thing, particularly in light of the teams’ last meeting. If things were really so different around Goodison — if the problems the club has had with Arsenal left with its former boss — March’s game would have been more competitive. Instead, the result serves as a reminder: Everton may need more than an early spring surge to close the gap with Arsenal.
West Ham United vs. Liverpool, 11:00 a.m. Eastern, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra
- Liverpool one point back of Chelsea for first place.
- Two wins in a row have West Ham in 11th place.
- Reds won season’s first meeting, 4-1 at Anfield.
There’s a surprising amount of skepticism as to whether Liverpool can handle West Ham, with some seeing the combination of a trip to Upton Park plus Sam Allardyce‘s tactics as a threat for the Reds’ eight-match winning streak. Yet the last time the teams met, Liverpool routed the Hammers at Anfield, with Luis Suárez scoring twice in the Reds’ three-goal win.
At that time. however, West Ham was in a mild free fall, with Allardyce’s job in danger as the Irons descended toward the bottom three. Since then, however, the Hammers have recovered. While fan discontent continues to grow toward the team’s uninspiring play, the club’s spot in next year’s Premier League is almost assured. After wins against Sunderland and Hull, West Ham’s 10 points clear of the drop.
It’s a status that speaks to West Ham’s improvement, though Liverpool has also improved dramatically since December. Back then, qualifying for Champions League was Liverpool’s only, and then still precarious, goal. Now, Rodgers’ team is in title contention, and while many continue to look for signs the team will slip recent, lopsided wins over Tottenham, Cardiff City, Manchester United, and Southampton (all by at least three goals; all since March 1) suggest the Reds may be beyond being bothered by the likes of West Ham.
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