Donovan may start as strikerless Everton aim to spring a surprise at in-form Arsenal

Arsenal v Everton, Premier League, January 9, 2010

Arsenal 4/9; Draw 4/1; Everton 8/1

With this weekend marking the reverse fixtures of the first day of the season – Everton travel to the Emirates looking to banish the memory of their 6-1 home mauling by Arsenal back in August. (5/6 to be over 2.5 goals, 6/5 to be under 2.5 goals.)

The Toffees will be hoping Cesc Fabregas has not recovered from his hamstring injury as the Spanish playmaker was the architect of the Goodison Park hammering, scoring two and providing two assists in a game that marked Arsenal as title contenders.

The Gunners have since that win been written off, most notably after the 3-0 home defeat to Chelsea, but have roared back into contention, claiming 16 points out of a possible 18 and capitalising on some sketchy form from leaders Chelsea and second placed Manchester United. (Arsenal are 7/2 to win the league.)

Theo Walcott, Gael Clichy and Nicklas Bendtner are all close to fitness but won’t return until the visit to Bolton in a week and join long term injury victim Robin van Persie on the treatment table. Alexandre Song and Emmanuel Eboue miss out due to Africa Cup of Nations involvement and with Denilson replacing the Cameroon defensive midfielder, much will be expected of Aaron Ramsey.

The Welsh schemer has scored in his last two games (away at both Portsmouth and West Ham) and if Fabregas doesn’t make it will hope to set the tempo of a match that will likely be played in the Everton half. Abou Diaby is another Gunners midfielder in good form and Cro-zilian Eduardo has also scored in successive matches. (Arsenal are 11/10 to score in both halves.)

Arsene Wenger has been banging on about a title challenge and after the match with Bolton was postponed Arsenal will be well aware that they cannot afford to drop points against an improving Everton side.

Slowly, slowly results have been improving for Everton. They are unbeaten since defeat to Liverpool at the end of November, a run of four successive draws steadied the ship and a win over Burnley in their final game of 2009 lifted the Toffees further away from the relegation zone.

When looking at Everton’s injury list it is no surprise that they have struggled in 2009/2010. The spine of their team has been ripped out with the likes of Mikel Arteta and Phil Jagielka missing due to long term injuries and they were boosted by Phil Neville starting the win over Carlisle in the FA Cup last week.

David Moyes also has a bid decision to make up front. Jo has been suspended by the club, Louis Saha is injured and Aiyegbeni Yakubu is at the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola. New signing Landon Donovan, given the prestigious number nine shirt at Everton, could come in or James Vaughan, a scorer in the 3-1 win over Carlisle, could start. ( Arsenal are 11/10 to keep a clean sheet.)

The Toffees will rely on their midfield enforcers Neville, Marouane Fellaini (described this week as the best midfielder in the Premier League) and Tim Cahill to stop the movement and fluency of the home side. Arsenal are on a roll and Andrey Arshavin is due a good performance, but Everton are likely to be stubborn in defence( Everton are 7/1 to keep a clean sheet) and the Gunners may have to be patient (7/2 for draw/Arsenal).

101gg predicts: Arsenal 2 – Everton 0

Arsenal 4/9; Draw 4/1; Everton 8/1

Full match odds here.