Toffees threaten sticky situation for Arsenal
Everton's impressive 3-0 win away to Newcastle United in the Premier League has given extra significance to the Toffees' upcoming fixture at home to Arsenal.
The Merseysiders' victory on Tuesday allied to the fourth-placed Gunners' 2-2 draw with Swansea reduced the London club's lead over Everton to six points.
Everton, however, have a game in hand over Arsenal in the struggle to finish in the top four and claim a place in next season's European Champions League.
It means much will hinge on the outcome of their meeting at Goodison Park on April 6, although Everton manager Roberto Martinez's insists his focus is on the Toffees next match at Fulham.
"It's a game where Fulham are fighting for their lives," the Spaniard said.
But Martinez surely knows Fulham will find it difficult to match his team if they can replicate the performance they produced against Newcastle at St James' Park.
Goals from Ross Barkley, Romelu Lukaku and Leon Osman were thoroughly deserved as Newcastle were swept aside by Everton's pace and technique, qualities demonstrated by the player who scored a quite remarkable opening goal.
Barkley ran from deep inside his own half, leaving several Newcastle players trailing before he finished decisively with a goal that added to his claims for a place in England's squad for the World Cup finals in Brazil, although Martinez was equally impressed by other elements of his display.
- Barkley 'perfect' -
"Not many players can score that sort of goal," Martinez said. "Technically, that is as good as you are going to get, but he also has the physicality to go with it.
"What pleased me most, though, is that he didn't lose his concentration after the goal. He was perfect, working hard for the team and producing a really mature performance.
"It would have been easy to drop his responsibilities after scoring a wonder-goal, but he was focused. He is gifted, but what shocks you is the physicality that goes with it and his character. He's a real down-to-earth modern footballer and a joy to work with."
Martinez avoided giving England coach Roy Hodgson advice about whom he should pick for the World Cup, but said: "If he (Barkley) gets selected, he will be ready; if not, he will have a rest this summer after a most demanding season.
"He will be a phenomenal footballer for England and English football. He's also a proud Evertonian who loves playing football and a proud Englishman who is very proud of representing England."
Barkley was only one of several outstanding individuals for Everton, who underlined their right to be rated as Champions League contenders.
"We were very powerful in both boxes. I was pleased with the goals and to keep a clean sheet against opposition like Newcastle shows focus and concentration," explained Martinez.
"Now there are going to be a lot of twists and turns. This league could spring a few surprises from now until the end of the season."
John Carver, the coach who was in charge of Newcastle while manager Alan Pardew completed his three-match stadium ban, said: "Everton were clinical. We came up against a good side with some really good players.
"We matched them for 45 minutes, but a bit of sheer genius from Ross Barkley undid us."