Everton host Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday with the two teams' futures pointing in opposite directions. Spurs are in fourth and well-place to not only grab a European Champions League spot, but could feasibly be title contenders if they maintain their current consistency. For the Blues, it's all about wasted potential, sitting in eleventh place with a squad that could easily be in top six but isn't.
We chatted with Bryan from the Spurs SBN blog Cartilage Free Captain about how Tottenham have been doing and how he sees things ending up for the London side.
RBM - Spurs are starting to put some distance between them and the chasing pack (Palace in 5th are 4pts behind). With current form in mind, how high up the table do you think you can go?
CFC - I'm kind of a "Debbie Downer" when it comes to Spurs' chances in the League this year. I think third or fourth would be great. Top four puts us back in the Champions League, which has been our goal for a while now. I think a title chase is still possible, given how consistent Spurs have been and how inconsistent everyone else has been, but I'm trying not to get my hopes up.
RBM - January is around the corner so here's the obligatory transfer window question - are Tottenham going to be busy? Who and what positions will you be targeting in the window?
CFC - Word from everyone that covers Spurs is that this January will be like every January, mostly quiet. In terms of players coming in, most of the rumors are pointing to Spurs bolstering their striking options. Other areas of concern are centerback and a defensive midfielder, but so far there hasn't been a lot of smoke coming from those fires. In terms of specific names, there's a possibility Spurs go back in for Saido Berahino, while names like Moussa Dembele (the Fulham one) and Sandro Ramirez are also being bandied about in the papers.
One thing to keep an eye on is Spurs buying more promising youngsters from lower leagues and then loaning them back. We did that last season with Dele Alli and it has worked fantastically well. So, why not try it again?
RBM - On a related note, will you be offloading some players as well in the transfer period? Do you have any midfielders who can provide some semblance of a defensive backbone to a side like Everton?
CFC - There's a few players that could go, Federico Fazio and Andros Townsend spring readily to mind, and they're likely to be the first deals Spurs complete. Fazio was linked with West Brom this summer, so if you need a gigantic plodding defender, he might be your man. I, personally, would be more than happy to offer you one mildly injured
Ryan Mason, but I don't think Spurs are actually looking to move him.
RBM - Can you give us an update of how the Europa League campaign has gone? Is the priority order Premier League > Europa League > FA Cup, or will Mauricio Pocchetino try to win it all?
CFC - The Europa League was fine. Totally fine. Unless you care about squad rotation, then it was not fine at all. Spurs won their group playing a lot (Read: WAY TO MANY!) of their first-team players, but drew Fiorentina in the first knockout round. Fiorentina knocked us out last season, but the tie as a whole was pretty fun. As to our priorities, I
think you have it right. Pochettino will make noises about wanting to win everything, but the priority is almost certainly Champions League qualification. The Premier League and the Europa League offer that. The FA Cup does not. That said, if Fiorentina dump us out of Europa, Pochettino might go HAM for the FA Cup.
RBM - I just noticed that Spurs do not have a single outfield player over the age of 28 - has Dan Levy set the foundation for a contender for a few years to come?
CFC - Definitely. Spurs are a super young team, but one that is oddly experienced. Christian Eriksen, Heung-Min Son, and Erik Lamela are all just 23. Those guys seem like they've been really top quality players for a long time, but they haven't really even reached their prime. The youth movement is definitely something that Spurs are doing
consciously. They want players in the team now that will be on the pitch when their new stadium opens in 2018. Whether this young core means Spurs contend for years to come remains to be seen, but it's necessary. Spurs, like Everton, simply can't afford players at their peak. We're not going to be able to buy the Paul Pogbas and the
Antoine Griezmanns of the world, but we can steal people like Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen and hope that they turn into that.
RBM - You had tipped Dele Alli to be an instant success the last time we spoke. How are some of the lesser-heralded players like Tom Carroll and Alex Pritchard doing?
CFC - I'm not sure if you know this, but Tom Carroll is definitely not "less heralded" over at Cartilage Free Captain (Our apologies!!). In fact, he might be the most heralded player. He's doing fine though. People forget that he
played a lot of Premier League football for Swansea last season, so this level isn't new to him. What's really encouraging though is that Pochettino seems to have confidence in him now. So much so that he's jumped past Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb in the midfield pecking order.
Pritchard has yet to see the field for Spurs this season due to injury, but fellow youngster Josh Onomah has really made an impression. He's played a few times in the Europa League and even made a couple Premier League sub appearances. He looks really good. Confident on the ball, excellent pace, makes good incisive runs. He's
basically our new Aaron Lennon.
RBM - Last time the two sides met they did just about everything but score. Spurs defence is the stingiest in the Premier League, can they keep Romelu Lukaku and friends from gatecrashing the party?
CFC - Probably not. Spurs defense is good, but when strikers are in good form they score goals. Spurs couldn't keep Odion Ighalo off the scoresheet last week and he has slightly similar attributes to Lukaku. The saving grace for Spurs is that Everton's defense is so bad, we can probably score more than Lukaku.
RBM - Since the Everton defence is busy giving out free rides on the goal merry-go-round, who will top score for Spurs on Sunday, with how many?
CFC - I'm going to go with Erik Lamela. He's been in great form recently and bagged the opener against Watford. I'll say he continues his goal-scoring form and nabs a brace.
As always, our thanks to Bryan for speaking with us. Head over to CFC for the Q&A we did with them.