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 By Mike Whalley

Howard: Arsenal favourites for fourth

Tim Howard insists that Arsenal will remain favourites for England’s fourth and final Champions League spot even if Everton beat them this weekend.

• O'Farrell: Substitutes keep Everton marching on

Roberto Martinez’s side are firmly back in the hunt for a top-four Premier League finish after winning 3-1 at Fulham last Sunday.

That win, coupled with Arsenal’s 1-1 draw at home to Manchester City the previous day, means that fifth-placed Everton are four points behind Arsene Wenger’s side with a game in hand.

The Gunners visit Goodison Park this coming Sunday, and a home win would give Martinez a serious chance of taking his team into next season’s Champions League.

A run of five successive league wins has reawakened Everton’s hopes of making the top four, but goalkeeper Howard is cautious.

The United States international told reporters: “I don’t think we are favourites for fourth place.

“It is a little bit in our hands as we have a game in hand and we go head-to-head with Arsenal, but they still have four points on us and it is difficult. So we are on the outside looking in -- but I think you want to be in the fight always.

“Sure, Arsenal are still favourites for fourth; they are four points ahead of us -- but it’s our job to make those four points up. If we can do it, then I suppose we will be favourites.”

Earlier this month, Arsenal ended Everton’s hopes of a trophy this season with a 4-1 FA Cup quarterfinal victory at the Emirates Stadium.

Howard did not play in that game, as Martinez stuck with his policy of fielding back-up keeper Joel Robles in cup ties, but is keen to avenge the defeat.

The 35-year-old said: “We are looking forward to the weekend. Football is crazy. Two weeks ago we were thinking: ‘Can we catch Tottenham?’ Now we are asking ourselves if we can catch Arsenal.

“We still have a sour taste in our mouths from losing at the Emirates in the FA Cup and we will try to put that right.

“I don’t think we showed well down there and not only do we want to get the right result, we want to put on a performance at home, we want to keep the ball.”

Everton’s remaining seven fixtures are far from straightforward; after facing Arsenal, they visit relegation-threatened Sunderland -- who won at Goodison Park on Boxing Day -- before playing their game in hand at home to a Crystal Palace side who beat Chelsea last Saturday.

They then host Manchester United, led by former Everton boss David Moyes, and travel to Southampton either side of Easter.

And the Toffees finish with a home game against title hopefuls Manchester City and a visit to Hull.

Howard added: “There are seven games left. They are all going to be crucial. If we can get those points and be right on Arsenal’s tail, that will be important for us, but it’s not as if we can win next weekend and then drop points the following week.

“We feel like we are playing well but I think at this end of the season, you have to feel like you can beat anybody.

“We have got Arsenal at home, Manchester United at home, Manchester City at home -- and it will be tough against Crystal Palace with them having just come off a big victory.

“So it is never easy at this stage. Everyone has got something to play for. I think that is what makes the Premier League amazing. It is not just the teams at the top -- everyone has something to fight for.

“There are some massive clashes. Next weekend will be huge for us but once we get that out of the way, it will be vitally important to win the following week.”

Meanwhile, Martinez has talked up Everton's hopes of competing with the top four, and says their results this season proves that.

Since taking over in the summer, the former Wigan boss has led the Toffees to victory against Chelsea and Manchester United as well as an impressive 1-1 draw against then league leaders Arsenal.

“To get three points at Old Trafford, the performances at the Emirates and Stamford Bridge, those are signs that we are in position to compete against these sort of sides,” he is quoted as saying in the Mirror.

“It would be very easy for us to say our aim is to stay in the division. Then I am sure we would have an easy ride.

“But I think we need to push ourselves. I do feel that as a club we should be in the Champions League. Is that realistic? We need to earn that on the pitch. And we have shown on the pitch we can compete with the top teams.”

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