Two of this season’s leading contenders for a top four spot in the English Premier League go head-to-head at Goodison Park this Sunday with a vital three points up for grabs in the chase for Champions League football next year.
Both clubs will be hoping for a victory that will not only get one over one of their closest challengers, but also propel them into the busy Christmas and New Year fixture schedule with an extra confidence boost.
The home side Everton go into this game having drawn seven out of their last nine league games including three consecutive 1-1 draws. Manager David Moyes will be pleased to have blunted Manchester City in the game at Eastlands last week and although they should have taken all three points from Tottenham’s North London rivals Arsenal in their previous home fixture, he will also take satisfaction that his men can match any of the leading sides in the division.
Everton’s chances of taking a crucial win could depend on three of his key men. The sustained good form of Marouane Fellaini has attracted rave reviews and admirers as his name continues to occupy column inches in the transfer gossip sections with the January window ready to spring open. Moyes will be hoping the Belgian can impose himself once again on Andre Villas-Boas’ men.
Fellaini’s compatriot Kevin Mirallas, so impressive for the Toffees since his arrival from Olympiakos in the summer, could make a return having missed the last four games with a hamstring problem. Everton have missed the extra dynamism provided by Mirallas’ pace and creativity and will be hopeful he is fit to line up on Sunday.
Moyes will also be slightly concerned about the general form of striker Nikica Jelavic. The Croatian hitman has contributed 5 goals this season and continues to put himself around for the team but is lacking in confidence somewhat at present and the Blues boss will be writing to Santa Claus asking for a return to last season’s goalscoring exploits for the ex-Rangers man.
AVB’s Spurs side are in good spirits at present having won three games on the spin domestically and, with their win against Panathinaikos on Thursday, progressed to the knockout stages of the Europa League. They also find themselves in the much coveted fourth place, three points and two places ahead of Everton in the league table.
Villas-Boas has experienced a slightly up-and-down time since his controversial appointment in the summer but seems to be slowly putting his stamp on this Tottenham side whilst still maintaining the strengths inherited from his predecessor, Harry Redknapp.
There are positives and negatives for Spurs going into Sunday’s clash on Merseyside. Star man Gareth Bale misses out through injury but the re-emergence of Jermain Defoe this season will provide the Everton back line with a stern test. Summer signings Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey have settled in nicely, with the Belgian midfielder particularly impressive since his switch to White Hart Lane.
Tottenham have also coped extremely well with the Thursday/Sunday fixture schedule that so many sides struggle to handle due to their involvement in European competition. Spurs have won four out of the five league games they’ve played directly following a Europa League tie and will be hopeful of continuing the trend against Moyes’ men.
The two teams have been extremely evenly matched over the last few years and this season looks to be no different as both have genuine designs on Champions League football next year. Another tight affair is expected this time around, but having fielded an almost full strength side on Thursday evening, it may be that Tottenham will struggle to match the high intensity game expected from Everton over the 90 minutes.
Prediction: Everton 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur