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Arsenal, Everton battle for fourth place

Liverpool, England (SportsNetwork.com) - Arsenal has slipped seven points back of top spot in the Premier League, making the club's trip to Goodison Park to face Everton on Sunday a meeting with massive European implications.

The two sides, ensconced in a battle for fourth place, are seeking Champions League football for next season.

The Gunners enter the contest with a slight edge, having taken 64 points from its 32 games. But a home win for the Toffees on Sunday would see the pendulum swing in the favor Roberto Martinez's men, who come into the match four points back of Arsenal but with a game in hand.

Arsenal is winless in its last three Premier League matches, falling in a humiliating defeat to Chelsea a fortnight ago before playing to consecutive draws against Swansea City and Manchester City. The club has conceded nine goals over that span, and Everton's scoring threat means that the Gunners will have to be on song defensively in order to pull out three points.

"Everton have got great players, and great attacking players especially so they are a real threat going forward," midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain told Arsenal Player this week. "Even their defensive players are a threat going forward, and both their full backs have massive attacking potential.

"We have played them twice this year, so we know what to expect, and it is going to be a hard game for us. Goodison Park is always a really hard place to go to, but in the recent years since I've been at the club we've always done alright there so hopefully we can do the same again this time."

Arsenal and Everton played to a 1-1 draw earlier this season, and while the Toffees suffered a 4-1 defeat in FA Cup action at the Emirates last month, they have been in fine form in league play, winning their last five matches.

Sunday's affair could go either way, but it is sure to have a distinct effect on the race for fourth place.

The title race is also wide open heading into the Premier League's weekend slate.

Liverpool comes into the round atop the league on 71 points, meaning that a win over West Ham United at Upton Park on Sunday would see the Reds retain the position for another week.

Manchester City, though, holds two games in hand. Maximum points from the club's remaining eight games would grant the Citizens the title, a quest that begins Saturday when they welcome Southampton to the Etihad.

Chelsea's title hopes have taken a massive hit after the club dropped two of its last three league matches, but the Blues will hope to stay in the hunt by getting a win over Stoke City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Fulham will hope to aid its relegation battle with a win at Aston Villa, Cardiff City will attempt to inch closer to safety with a positive result at home against Crystal Palace, Manchester United will have one eye on its Champions League quarterfinal tie when it heads to St. James' Park to face Newcastle, West Bromwich Albion will look to pull further away form the drop zone when it heads to Carrow Road to face Norwich City, and Swansea City travels to the KC Stadium to face Hull City.

Monday's lone fixture will pit a pair of struggling sides against one another as sixth-place Tottenham, which has dropped three of its last four league games, hosts second-from-bottom Sunderland, which has lost three straight Premier League matches.