Everton-Southampton Preview

The Associated Press

Everton boss Roberto Martinez insists his fifth-placed side will reach the Champions League if they can win their final three games, beginning with Saturday's lunch-time kick-off at St. Mary's against Southampton.

The Toffees are one point behind Arsenal for a place in Europe's most prestigious club competition, with the Gunners playing on Monday night at home against Newcastle United.

Maximum points over the remainder of the campaign will give Everton 78. Martinez believes that total will get the job done.

"I think it is fair to say, just looking at the last 15 years or since the Premier League started, the fourth place is well below the 76 points," he said. "There has only been one season where you have needed 76 points for that and in average it's always been a lot less points. You don't get far wrong when you look at the points tally.

"It doesn't matter who you are playing against or who you are fighting against, to get into that fourth spot it's always the points tally that it matters."

Martinez will have a weakened squad with Kevin Mirallas ruled out for the rest of the season with a tear in his groin suffered in Sunday's 2-0 home victory over Manchester United. The boss has also ruled out Sylvain Distin, who was taken off at half-time with a hamstring injury.

The Toffees have four wins and four draws in their last eight matches in the league against the Saints. Seamus Coleman and Romelu Lukaku were on target in a 2-1 victory at Goodison Park on Dec. 29.

Southampton had a healthy Jay Rodriguez then, with the striker since suffering a torn knee ligament that will also keep him out of contention for the World Cup.

The Saints have yet to score in open play since Rodriguez's injury April 5. They have gone 233 minutes without a goal overall after last Saturday's scoreless draw at Aston Villa.

"We did everything well except actually score," manager Mauricio Pochettino told Southampton's official website. "I'm happy with how the team is playing because we have played well in these last few games and throughout the season."

Martinez hailed the job done by his Argentine counterpart, who has guided the Saints into eighth place.

"He came in at a difficult time when Southampton had a very successful period with two promotions from the previous management team," Martinez said. "He embraced the good work that Nigel (Adkins) did and then all of a sudden he transformed the team.

"It is a team that they play with real bravery, they condense the spaces, they press, they're very dynamic."

Everton are seeking a fourth straight away Premier League victory for the first time.

They will look for goals from Lukaku, who has 13 to tie for ninth in the league and is tied for second with 41 shots on target.

Everton have the league's second-best defence, having shipped 34 goals with Tim Howard tied for second in the league with 14 clean sheets.

The Toffees have drawn their last three visits to St. Mary's since a 1-0 victory Sept. 11, 2002.

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