Tottenham will be hoping to cap off a fine festive period with a fourth successive win as they make to trip to Merseyside to take on mid-table Everton, who are continuing to underachieve.
Given the vibrance with which they attack, the number of goals they score and in particular the form of joint top Premier League scorer Romelu Lukaku, it is quite remarkable that Everton are occupying a place in the bottom half. That they are is partly down to a lack of ruthlessness, but it is mainly due to slack defensive play which has cost them points in their last two home outings as Leicester City and Stoke City have both come to Goodison Park in the last fortnight and filled their boots.
The centre-back pairing of Ramiro Funes Mori and John Stones is showing real signs of vulnerability, perhaps due to a lack of top-level experience. For Stones it is all part of the learning curve as he is being touted in many quarters as having the potential to be one of Europe’s leading defenders, but here it may be worth taking a leaf out of the book of Tottenham duo Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, who are responsible for the Premier League’s best defensive record.
The Belgian pair will be in for a significant test here and how they go about handling the threat of fellow countryman Lukaku and the sheer creative spark of Gerard Deulofeu among others will go a long way towards deciding the outcome. For visiting boss Mauricio Pochettino, the game plan will be to stifle the supply line to Lukaku and use the presence of Dele Alli in midfield to prevent Ross Barkley from making his forward runs.
It was a battle royal for Spurs on Monday at Watford as they scored late to record another wonderful victory, with Son Heung-min – albeit in an offside position – emphasising the strength in depth at the club with a clever back-heeled winner. Whether the club can challenge for the title has been a topic of heated debate over recent days, with the only concern regarding a lack of cover for Harry Kane in attack. He is valuable, but Kane is far from Tottenham’s only source of goals this season as several of his teammates continue to chip in.
James McCarthy lasted only 20 minutes on his Everton comeback and so misses out again here along with Phil Jagielka. Winger Aaron Lennon will be hoping to be recalled to face his former club.
Tottenham are hit by an injury to the in-form Mousa Dembele which will keep him out for six weeks, while Clinton N’Jie is a long-term absentee.
Last Meeting: Tottenham secured fifth place in the Premier League with a narrow victory over Everton on the final day of last season, and unsurprisingly it was Harry Kane who scored the game’s only goal. The England international striker glanced the ball in at the near post from Eric Dier’s cross and his side held on comfortably as Everton rarely threatened.
Played for both – Louis Saha: The French striker joined Everton in the summer of 2008 and spent three and-a-half injury disrupted years at the club, scoring a reasonable 27 goals in 97 Premier League appearances. His move to Tottenham in January 2012 came as a surprise, but he helped the Londoners finish fourth through scoring three times in his 10 outings before leaving that summer.
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