Everton vs. Tottenham Hotspur: Match Preview

Ross Barkley made his first big impact against Spurs last year. Can he do it again Sunday? - Clive Rose

The Toffees take on the fourth place Spurs on Sunday, with a chance to prove their top four aspirations against the London side.

On the back of a stellar first half by Tim Howard and a fantastic showing from substitute Leon Osman, Everton continued their winning ways with a 2-0 victory at Villa Park last week. Aston Villa created early chances, but the Toffees punished them for their inability to capitalize. Everton did not dominate possession as we have seen at times this season (they out-possessed Villa 53-47), but managed to do enough for three points, an encouraging sign for Roberto Martinez's boys.

The win propelled the Toffees to sixth, just one point behind Sunday's opponent, Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs find themselves around where they hope to be in the table, fourth, but getting the results has frequently been a struggle. Though they have out-possessed their opponents in all but one league match this campaign, they have only managed nine goals. Three of the nine have come from Roberto Soldado from the spot, all in matches that ended 1-0 to Spurs. Soldado has one goal from the run of play, giving him four goals on the season. Gylfi Sigurdsson has 3 goals in the league, but did not even feature in Spurs' Sunday victory over Hull, and has not been a consistent full 90 player for manager Andre Villas-Boas. What Tottenham have lacked in consistent goal scoring though, they have made up for in stellar defensive performances. They have six clean sheets from nine league matches, have not yet conceded a goal in Europa League play through five matches, and have only one black mark on their record, a 3-0 loss at the hands of West Ham United. Consistency has been key for Spurs at the back, with Michael Dawson, Jan Vertonghen, and Kyle Walker all having played every minute of league play thus far, with Kyle Naughton filling in admirably at left back since an injury to Danny Rose. Spurs are coming off a marathon match against Hull City in the League Cup midweek, winning 8-7 in penalties after the match went full time at 2-2. Walker, Vertonghen, Sigurdsson, and Paulinho were among some of the regular starting 11 that played the full 120 in that match Wednesday, so fatigue could be a factor for Tottenham.

Team News

Everton's injury situation changed very little from last week. Darron Gibson remains out indefinitely, Antolin Alcaraz is expected back in late November, and Arouna Kone will remain out with a knee injury. Johnny Heitinga is ready for a return to the match day 18.

Tottenham was dealt injuries to Kyle Naughton and Nacer Chadli in their midweek League Cup win, and both their statuses for Sunday are unclear. Emmanuel Adebayor, who was scheduled to make a return to the starting 11 on Wednesday pick up a knock prior to the match, and will likely be unavailable on Sunday. Andros Townsend hopes to play after suffering broken bones in his hand. Left-back Danny Rose's availability is in question as he nears his return from a toe injury. Younes Kaboul is nearing a return from a knee injury suffered in last season's opening match, and could called upon Sunday. If both Rose and Naughton cannot play, Vertonghen will likely be pushed out to left back, which will bring either Kaboul or Romanian Vlad Chiriches in to play center-back alongside Dawson.

Update: Andros Townsend will be able to play, according to the Mirror.

Keys to the Match

Given the problems Spurs have had scoring goals, and their propensity toward winning games from the spot, perhaps the most important thing Everton must do is avoid conceding a penalty. If they can do that, and be wary of young midfielders Andros Townsend and Gylfi Sigurdsson, they will have a very good chance to keep their second consecutive clean sheet. On the attack, the Toffees will need to excel to breakdown a staunch Tottenham back line. It has become clear that Romelu Lukaku can and will score goals when given the opportunity, but the support from the midfield must be strong. Ross Barkley, Leon Osman, Steven Pienaar, and Kevin Mirallas have all carried the team to a victory this season, but have also disappeared for long stretches as well. One or two of those players will likely have to provide moments of inspiration for Everton to find the back of the net.

For all the continuity Tottenham has seen in goal, on the back line, and at striker (for better or worse), the midfield has been tough to figure out. After just a quick look at the squad list, name after name jumps out. Christian Eriksen, Lewis Holtby, and Erik Lamela are young players with loads of potential, and Sandro, Moussa Dembele, and Aaron Lennon are Premier League veterans who have proven they can succeed at this level. Yet, it is hard to leave this talented group of players blameless in Spurs' scoring woes this season. Tottenham's success on Sunday may very well be directly related to what members of this group AVB decides to use, and how well they can control the match and create chances for Roberto Soldado.

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