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Fixtures, form and price all point to backing Everton for top-four finish

Mikel Arteta has described Everton as the “best team Arsenal have faced in the Premier League this season” and the Toffees have lost fewer top-flight games than anyone else in the division.

Their sole defeat came at Manchester City, with Manuel Pellegrini’s men battering every league visitor to the Etihad this season. Man City have won all seven at home, scoring more in these games alone than the remainder of the Premier League, barring the top four, have managed across all of their 15 league outings.

Therefore, this defeat is more than acceptable and given Everton’s impressive start in terms of results and on-pitch performance, taking Coral’s top industry price on the Toffees finishing in the Champions League qualification places is hard to reject.

Everton’s odds are 5/1 to finish in the top four this season and this must now be a tempting price after taking four points from successive away games with Manchester United and Arsenal.

Roberto Martinez has guided Everton to within one point of the top four, despite the fixture list suggesting that his easier games are still to come.

Everton are yet to play any of the current bottom five at Goodison Park and haven’t played Fulham or Sunderland at all, who are both in the relegation places at present.

This compares favourably to the top four, as Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City all have to play at least two of the other three teams joining them in the Champions League places twice.

Liverpool have additionally played five of the current bottom seven at Anfield, while Chelsea haven’t beaten any team above 14th in the standings on the road.

What is perhaps most surprising is the effectiveness of Everton’s defence, as the common conception of Martinez’ attack-minded, passing strategy was that it could leave his team susceptible at the back.

Instead, only Arsenal have conceded fewer Premier League goals than Everton this season, while the fact that 17 of Martinez’ squad have started in the top-flight suggests that there is strength in depth to contend with any injuries.

Although the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley may steal most of the headlines, Everton’s defence does deserve special credit, with Seamus Coleman, Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin all ever-presents thus far.

Should one of this trio get injured, then Everton may have a problem. Although, they have seamlessly contended with the broken toe of Leighton Baines without trouble, which was expected to make them less potent in an attacking sense.

The chief area where Martinez must improve if Everton are to finish the season in the top four is in terms of holding onto leads.

Everton have dropped seven points from winning positions this season, with only two Premier League teams losing more when holding an advantage.

In other markets, Everton’s odds are 50/1 to win the Premier League this season and 20/1 in the outright betting without the two Manchester clubs.