It may be a new year, but will it be the same old problems for Everton? Tottenham are the first opponents of 2016 as the Toffees look to arrest a slide in form that has seen their hopes of a top four place suffer a near-terminal blow.
Roberto Martinez’s side haven’t won in six and have shipped seven goals in back-to-back home defeats to Leicester and Stoke to slip down to 11th in the table. Stretching that record further and it’s just three wins in 12 while only six other teams have conceded more than Everton so far this season.
The positives? Well, the side is full of goals. Their current tally of 35 is only better by Man City and Leicester going into this weekend’s matches. Romelu Lukaku has eight goals in his last seven Premier League appearances at Goodison Park, and 11 goals in his last 10 games in all competitions. Though the disgruntled supporters are rightly questioning the point of all this attacking play if they continually concede soft goals at the other end.
Tottenham, on the other hand, arrive on Merseyside full of confidence after a productive festive period that has seen them move up to fourth and raise hopes of a unlikely title bid.
Like Everton they also have an in-form striker in Harry Kane, who has 10 goals in his last ten league games. Unlike Everton though they are keeping them out at the other end, meaning all those goals from Kane are translating into positive results.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side have won their last three games, have lost just one in 18 and haven’t lost away from home since the opening game of the season. They also have the best defensive record in the Premier League, with just 15 goals conceded in the first 19 games of the season.
Throw in the fact they are unbeaten in their last six meetings with Everton – with the Toffees failing to score in four of those – and you can understand why the fans aren’t exactly brimming with confidence going into this one.
Everton will be without James McCarthy after the midfielder suffered a groin strain just 26 minutes into his comeback against Stoke on Monday. Tom Cleverley is also doubtful after being forced off in the same game with an Achilles injury.
Phil Jagielka is closing in on a comeback from a knee injury but may not be risked in this game. The same applies to Bryan Oviedo and Steven Pienaar.
Roberto Martinez has spoken of the need to tighten up defensively so the supporters are at least hoping to see some progress in that regard following the chaos against Stoke. Muhamed Besic could make a first start since September with both McCarthy and Cleverley picking up injury. Kevin Mirallas and Aaron Lennon – mysteriously dropped from the squad on Monday – could also return as the boss looks to freshen things up. Don’t expect any change in goal though!
Predicted starting XI: Howard, Coleman, Stones, Funes Mori, Baines, Barry, Besic, Mirallas, Barkley, Deulofeu, Lukaku.