English Premiership

Everton to focus on run-in

2014-04-10 16:37
Roberto Martinez (AFP)

Liverpool - Everton will not let the increased expectation that comes with their surge towards a top-four finish in the Premier League distract from maintaining their impressive run of form, manager Roberto Martinez said ahead of Saturday's match with Sunderland.

After crushing Arsenal 3-0 at Goodison Park last weekend, the spotlight has been firmly fixed on Martinez's side as they moved to within a point of the fourth-placed Gunners with a game in hand.

With six matches remaining and expectations rising, Everton, who have not finished fourth since the 2004-05 season, will stay grounded in their quest for a top four finish according to Martinez.

"We said our target is clearly in the final third of the season of going into every game to try... and get as many points as we could get, and that doesn't change," Martinez, whose side have 63 points from 32 matches, told reporters on Thursday.

"What changed last Sunday is probably the perception from the outside, but internally it doesn't change anything.

"We've got, mathematically, a great opportunity with six games to go."

Everton play bottom club Sunderland on Saturday and, with Arsenal in FA Cup action, a win would take them into the Champions League places.

Having won their last six Premier League outings, Everton will go into the game at the Stadium of Light as firm favourites.

Martinez, however, warned against complacency against a side who were thrashed 5-1 by Tottenham Hotspur last time out but claimed the spoils last time the sides met.

"The players are looking fresh, they're in a very good moment of form," continued the Spaniard, whose side lost 1-0 at home to Sunderland in December.

"We're just looking forward now to facing Sunderland. That is going to be such a difficult encounter at their own ground.

"We still remember the defeat we had at home against them and we need to make sure we are ready and prepared to perform as well as we can."

Everton will keep tabs on the fitness of midfielder Leon Osman, who was forced off after nine minutes in the win over Arsenal with a cut that left him sporting a black eye and needing stitches, but defender Phil Jagielka remains absent with a hamstring injury.

"Leon Osman is the only doubt that we have from the squad on Sunday (against Arsenal). The cut is healing well but the eye is not fully open," added Martinez.

"We need to make sure that it doesn't affect his vision, so we will have a clear idea after training today (Thursday)."

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Fixtures
16 August 2014
Manchester United v Swansea City, Old Trafford 13:45
West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur, Boleyn Ground 16:00
Stoke City v Aston Villa, Britannia Stadium 16:00
Leicester City v Everton, King Power Stadium 16:00
Queens Park Rangers v Hull City, Loftus Road Stadium 16:00
West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland, The Hawthorns 16:00
Arsenal v Crystal Palace, Emirates Stadium 18:30
17 August 2014
Liverpool v Southampton, Anfield 14:30
Newcastle United v Manchester City, St. James' Park 17:00
18 August 2014
Burnley v Chelsea, Turf Moor 21:00
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