Everton – Tottenham (Premier League)
Sunday, Tottenham goes for their seventh straight attempt to win at Goodison Park. The Londoners have been beaten in the last three times they were head-to-head. A hard visit to make. But then again, travelling to Everton has been hard on everyone this season. On the other hand, the Spurs also have a remarkable record in away games this season, so who will come on top?
Last Season, Everton battled for a Champions League pass right until March. If the new manager wants to follow on those footsteps now is the time to make a move. Everton will face a hard six matches combination and it will be interesting to see how they come out in the other end. Tottenham to begin with and then Crystal Palace, Liverpool, Stoke and a couple of visits to Old Trafford and the Emirates. Some say there are no easy fixtures in the Premier League but some are harder than others. Roberto Martínez is the first new manager in eleven years it was thought that he would require time to leave his mark in the club. Nevertheless, 9 games and 18 points after he is way ahead of expectations for his first term as Boss of the Toffees. So, what changed in Everton under Martínez? The signings he has done, Romelu Lukaku more than any other. Martínez has constructed a deeper squad and his proactiveness, not afraid of identifying problems and haul players off to make the necessary changes, has made a difference during matches. David Moyes’ team was quiet impressive. His defence was a regular in the top four least beaten. The attack, however, came out short. In recent years the Toffees had no problem dominating the game but were a lot less effective in closing it. And then Lukaku enters the picture and that “minor” detail changes. He has scored 5 goals in as many Premier League appearances. Now Everton have a decisive reference striker up front and they are wining. The Toffees won their last two fixtures and are undefeated at Goodison Park. Their single loss in the League this season has been a 3-1 to City at the Etihad. Martínez has all his key-players available, Darron Gibson being the exception. Arouna Koné picked up a nock against Hull City and will be joining Antolín Alcaraz in the treatment room. Tony Hibbert and John Heitinga returned to full training and should be ready to play.
Probable lineup: Howard – Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines – McCarthy, Barry – Mirallas, Barkley, Pienaar – Lukaku.
André Villas-Boas surely wants to erase the memory of last season 2-1 loss at Goodison Park. This term Tottenham sits in 4th, one point and two places above Everton. The Spurs had 16 fixtures this season, won 12, draw and lost 2. Other than the defeat at the Emirates in the North London derby the Spurs have won all seven games they have played away from home, conceding only once in that same game against Arsenal. The manager says he is preparing for a very different clash, since Everton has evolved from an aggressive football to more built-up plays. The points won or loss in this direct battles will prove decisive in the Premier League’s top four final places. Paulinho will have a crucial role in this particular game. He does every simple thing right and apparently without much effort. And Sunday AVB needs him to limit the space the opposition has in midfield. The more he leans on the sorts of Barry and McCarthy the more Everton will resort to long passes. Tottenham’s injury report is certainly giving Villas-Boas some headaches. Danny Rose and Emmanuel Adebayor are still unavailable and Nacer Chadli is joining them on the side lines, due to a hamstring injury. Younès Kaboul returned to action in midweek but after he was forced to a 120 minutes run is unlikely to start again so soon. Naughton and Capoue are doubtful.
Probable lineup: Lloris – Walker, Dawson, Chiriches, Vertonghen – Sandro, Paulinho – Townsend, Eriksen, Sigurdsson – Soldado.
Both Martínez and Villas-Boas favour flowing football and possession. Watching their sides play is usually entertaining and they know the importance this game has to their top four aspirations. Just one more thing to consider: the Spurs are involved in the European competitions and still in the League Cup, and the Evertonians are not. That results in an extra 5 fixtures to Tottenham this year, so far. Will this extra weight take it’s toll or is the Spurs team deep enough counteract that?