Over the past three years the EPL’s Champions League positions have been nothing but predictable. Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal were the only squads to represent the league in the marquee European competition. And during the build up to the 2013-14 season things were shaping up to adhere to the status quo. Chelsea replenished their youth movement while bringing in the most successful manger on the planet, Manchester United’s strike duo of Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney had a year to mesh and were coming off a title year, Arsenal opened their hard to crack piggy bank and signed playmaker Mesut Ozil, holding midfielder Mathieu Flamini and the French under 20 International Yaya Sango and Manchester City spent money like they were owned by a Dubai oil Sheikh. The only question was the prospect of Tottenham and whether they could be considered true contenders after their summer sale of Gareth Bale brought in hordes of cash.
Now with roughly eight matches remaining in the season the table is starting to take shape and teams are fully entrenched in valuable position battles. The four Champions League positions are filled by surprise contenders Liverpool and three of the four aforementioned favorites. Manchester United finds itself in complete turmoil on the outside looking in. Chelsea and Manchester City have all but assured a spot in the top four and Arsenal is fighting for dear life. The struggling north London side finds themselves in a heated battle with the likes of Tottenham and Everton.
Even though Arsenal is six points ahead and holds the goal differential advantage they are in an ominous position. Everton are the biggest challengers and are sure to dethrone the Champions League squad. In their remaining games the Toffees face off against two of the bottom three teams in the EPL and currently have a game on hand that will be played against relegation dwellers Crystal Palace. A win there will bring Everton within three points. But even before the Palace match Everton takes on Arsenal next weekend at Goodison Park and a favorable result for the home side could signal the changing of the guard.
This is all so surprising because before the season Everton was left for dead. David Moyes, who had been in charge of the club for ten plus seasons left to join Manchester United. Moyes, a three time Premier League Manager of the Year was consistently able to get the most out of his players and regularly had an overachieving Everton team finishing toward the upper half of the table. Adding insult to injury, Moyes was able to pluck Everton’s best player Marouane Fellaini away. Replacing Moyes was Roberto Martinez who in the previous season successfully helped Wigan achieve relegation to the Championship. Needless to say the move bringing Martinez in and Moyes out was not considered an upgrade. But things have worked out and Everton, who are riding a five game winning streak, are hoping to take the next step and cement themselves into Europe’s best competition, the Champions League.