In-form Everton up for testing week - Martinez

24 March 2014 12:46

Roberto Martinez insists Everton are up to the challenge of a testing week that could prove pivotal to their outside hopes of overhauling Arsenal for the final Champions League place in the Premier League.

Victory over Swansea City saw the Goodison Park club close the gap to the fourth-place Gunners to eight points, with a game in hand.

Arsene Wenger's team are still to visit the blue half of Merseyside before the end of the campaign, their deficiencies laid bare in the 6-0 humiliation they suffered in a London derby defeat at Chelsea.

With nine games remaining, Everton manager Martinez wisely refuses to add any extra pressure by talking-up the Toffees' chances of an unlikely tilt at claiming fourth spot in May.

But the Spaniard is confident that in the wake of victory over the Swans, his squad can meet the physical challenge of three games in nine days, which sees them visit Newcastle United on Tuesday and Fulham on Sunday in a crucial run of fixtures.

Looking further ahead, Arsenal travel to Goodison Park on April 6, and Martinez said: "It's really exciting. You want to play games and we have got a squad that is ready.

"I think the team is ready now to play games in a short space of time. Physically we have got good numbers and good options. There are plenty of leaders in that dressing room.

"We need to use them well but to be successful in this period is to take every day as it comes and every game on its merits."

Newcastle, who were beaten 3-2 by Martinez's side back in September, are on course to comfortably achieve their aim of a top half finish.

A late winner from Papiss Cisse against Crystal Palace at the weekend made it three victories from their last four games as they aim to end the season on a high. Newcastle manager Alan Pardew, who serves the last of a three-game stadium ban imposed for head-butting Hull City's Republic of Ireland midfielder David Meyler earlier this month, will again be absent.

Newcastle are also without injured French duo Loic Remy, their 13-goal top scorer, and Mathieu Debuchy, the defender as they seek victory over Everton for the first time since the end of 2011.

Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Remy's compatriot, said: "First and foremost, we want to stay in the top 10 for the rest of the season, and we'll do that by regularly picking up points.

"The last six weeks of the season are all about playing well, earning points and seeing where that takes us in the table."

Pardew will be free to see his side in person once again when they travel to Southampton at the weekend.

Following Everton's visit, the remaining four games of his punishment is a touchline ban. The repentant Newcastle manager said: "The sanction I've been given is tough, but it's one that I've had to accept."

Source: AFP