After a fine start to 2017 Everton face arguably their toughest test of the year so far with a trip to Mauricio Pochettino’s impressive Tottenham.
The match a White Hart Lane should act as a decent yardstick to judge just how far the team has progressed in recent months.
A nine-game unbeaten league run stretching back to before Christmas has boosted hopes of European football next season.
That quest was further aided by Manchester United’s win over Southampton in the EFL Cup final last weekend, raising the prospect of further European spots being available to teams finishing sixth and even seventh in the league.
Everton’s ambitions of course are now much higher thanks to Farhad Moshiri’s takeover a little over a year ago.
Evertonians have been reflecting on Moshiri’s first year in charge over the past week, with the general feeling being that the club has made huge strides in a short space of time but that the best is yet to come.
Moshiri has rejuvenated and revived the club from top to bottom, something that was reflected in the hugely successful “Everton Day” on Sky Sports News HQ.
Though obviously a PR exercise for all concerned, the behind-the-scenes access afforded to the Sky cameras painted the picture of a club on the up and gave further reason for the fans to be excited.
That confidence has been reflected on the pitch with the team in their best run of form since 2013.
Indeed a win on Sunday would equal Everton’s total points tally for each of the past two seasons, highlighting the rapid improvement under Ronald Koeman.
A victory in the capital – combined with other results going their way – could also lift the club to within touching distance of the top four; setting up a thrilling end to the season we scarcely thought possible after that dismal FA Cup defeat to Leicester at the start of January.
That will be a tough ask, however, with Tottenham formidable at the Lane this season.
Pochettino’s side have won 15 out of their 17 games at White Hart Lane in all competitions this season, drawing the other two.
Their only “home” defeats have been in their temporary European home of Wembley.
A victory on Sunday would also set a new club record of nine successive Premier League victories.
With Everton arriving in north London as the Premier League’s in-form team, something must give.
I think it is fair to see there are several similarities between Tottenham and Everton.
Both are Premier League mainstays with illustrious histories, but both have spent much of the past two decades in the shadow of illustrious rivals.
Lacking the finance to compete with the likes of Chelsea and the Manchester clubs Tottenham have needed to take a different approach, namely nurturing and developing young talent. And while Ronald Koeman was right to dismiss suggestions Everton should seek to directly emulate Tottenham they should take encouragement from their ability to muscle in amongst the Premier League elite.
Having the right man at the helm helps; and Mauricio Pochettino is establishing himself as one of the game’s brightest young managers.
He has fashioned a high-energy, high tempo team scattered with young talent. From Hugo Lloris and Jan Vertonghen at the back to Dele Alli and Harry Kane up front.
After pushing Leicester all the way last season Spurs have once again launched a title challenge and go into this game second in the table.
The only blemish to their copybook so far this season has been results in Europe, with their struggles at Wembley resulting in Champions League group stage elimination and defeat to Gent in the Europa League last month.
Much of the pre-match hype will surround strikers Kane and Lukaku, who are going head-to-head in the race for the golden boot.
Kane has 22 goals in all competitions already this season and goes into this game in red hot form having hit three hat-tricks in nine games since the turn of the year.
But to focus solely on Kane would be neglecting a side that has talent all over the pitch and one that will be up there in the final shake-up at the end of the season.
Everton have no fresh injury concerns, with Yannick Bolaise the only long-term absentee.
Mo Besic and Dominic Calvert-Lewin are back in training but likely to play for the U23s before making their first-team return.
Tottenham are confident Jan Vertonghen and Harry Kane will be fit to start after picking up knocks against Stoke last weekend.
Toby Alderweireld faces a late fitness test on a groin strain but Danny Rose and Erik Lamela are still sidelined.
Everton’s 2017 so far has been magnificent but I’ve had half an eye on this fixture of some time.
Historically White Hart Lane is not Everton’s favourite ground and given Tottenham’s recent form it will be no less difficult on Sunday.
A draw would be a fine result given the circumstances and continue their forward momentum.
A win and Everton may well be ready to gatecrash a party they’ve not been invited to for some time.
Predicted starting XI: Robles, Baines, Williams, Funes Mori, Coleman, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Davies, Lookman, Barkley, Lukaku.