There are going to be some subplots to Saturday's late kickoff game at Goodison Park as Everton will look to make Tottenham Hotspur their next big scalp after beating Manchester City and Chelsea at home. The rumour mill has been cranking away furiously, with reports that Spurs manager Harry Redknapp is the odds-on favorite to take over managing the Three Lions in the very near future (William Hill has 1/7), and David Moyes is the second favorite to take over for 'arry at White Hart Lane (9/2, behind Jose Mourinho at 7/2). Louis Saha and Steven Pienaar swapped jerseys right at the transfer deadline in a move that has been win-win so far for both teams. However, Pienaar is ineligible to play this weekend because he is on a loan move, while Moyes revealed that Saha wouldn't be in the squad for Spurs stemming from a 'gentleman's agreement' between Redknapp and him
Everton dropped another pair of points in their last outing at Queens Park Rangers, and will be eager to make amends for that mishap. They have slipped to 13th place in the Premiership standings, albeit having a game in hand over all the teams above them. Three points in the pending fixture would propel them up to 8th in the table, indicative of the parity between the non-top 6 clubs this season. Spurs meanwhile are in third, out of touch of the two Manchester clubs at the top, but four points clear of Arsenal in fourth.
David Moyes will be celebrating ten years at the helm of the Toffees this week, and would dearly like to kickoff the celebrations with a win tomorrow. Spurs outclassed Everton in the corresponding game 2-0 in January, a fixture postponed from the opening day of the season. An effort similar to the ones that garnered home wins against City and Chelsea will be required, though it will be a tough task keeping the London club off the scoresheet. Spurs have struggled and are winless away in 2012, losing at City & Arsenal and being held goalless at Anfield.
Everton are finally starting to resemble a healthy squad with Phil Jagielka, Jack Rodwell, Seamus Coleman and Victor Anichebe all played for the reserves in the mini-derby during the week. Darron Gibson still hasn't shaken off a knee injury and will be the only first team absentee from the squad. Moyes might be hesitant to throw Jagielka right back into the fray of things and keep the Sylvain Distin - Johnny Heitinga pairing intact in the back. Royston Drenthe should take Pienaar's place on the left wing and Coleman on the right. Denis Stracqualursi was ineffective against QPR last week and Moyes could be tempted to start new signing Nikica Jelavic at striker.
Tottenham will be missing Aaron Lennon, who picked up a knock during the midweek FA Cup game. Michael Dawson will be out for the rest of the season, while Jermaine Jenas and Tom Huddlestone are other long term casualties. Ledley King and William Gallas should be fit and in the reckoning, and Rafael van der Vaart should pull the strings in the attacking half after featuring prominently against Stevenage. Jermaine Defoe scored twice in that fixture to stake his claim to Saha's spot among the forward line.
Keys To The Game
Spurs winger Gareth Bale can be lethal when allowed to run, so we can expect Moyes to employ Phil Neville on the right side of the central pairing in the middle of the park (cue the groans from the Goodison faithful). Tim Cahill will probably be employed to disrupt Scott Parker, who has been very effective in front of the defence allowing Luka Modric to link up with van Der Vaart. Marouane Fellaini will have a busy day chasing the latter two. With all the central midfielders tied up, we can expect most of Everton's attacking to come down the two wings, especially on the right where Bale has shown to be quite lazy in tracking back after losing the ball.
For the London-based squad, they have shipped nine goals in their last three games and Redknapp will be looking to ensure that average is not maintained. Blues fans, however, know that the Spurs defence will probably regress to the mean with the Toffees having scored three goals in a Premiership game at Goodison only once this season, back in September against Wigan. Tottenham will do well to heed the lessons learned by Roberto Mancini and the the now-fired Andre Villas-Boas in underestimating a hungry Everton squad led by their supporters in full voice.
- Everton lead the Premiership in second half goals scored, with 70% of their total coming after halftime.
- The Toffees are now unbeaten in their last eight fixtures.
- Only three clubs have conceded fewer goals than Everton: Manchester United, City and Liverpool.
- Tottenham are winless in their last four visits to Goodison Park.
- Spurs have been quick starters this year, with ten goals coming in the first quarter hour of games.