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Everton at Tottenham: Match Preview | Optimism high as revamped Toffees begin new campaign

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A brand new midfield and a true global superstar have joined the Blue ranks - but will it be enough to end their big six hoodoo?

Everton Training Session Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

Yes, its heart over head time again as we board the Everton express for another rollercoaster season.

My enthusiasm for the new campaign was on the floor 11 minutes in to their friendly against Blackpool last month. They may have been wearing a smart new strip, but it was the same old players with the same old problems.

The spiriting fightback restored a bit of pride, but it did little to build up any optimism for the year ahead.

Then last week happened.

Everton’s triple signing of Allan, Abdoulaye Doucoure and James Rodriguez has fuelled excitement among Evertonians across the globe.

Everton Unveil New Signing James Rodriguez Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

The capture of James was the headline purchase, but the arrivals of Allan and Doucoure are just as significant given they plug a glaring hole in the side that sucked the life out of their performances during the restart.

That yawning disconnect in the centre of the park left the attack isolated and the defence exposed. Allan and Doucoure join the dots and provide the framework for what could be (whisper it quietly) a decent side, with perhaps a few tweaks still needed before next month’s deadline.

The minimal pre-season and packed schedule provides a layer of uncertainty, but that is a problem every club has to deal with. And with no European football to contend with, the Toffees will be afforded some extra breathing space their rivals won’t.

It is the kind of optimism that only occurs at the start of the season, before the players actually kick a ball and drag us back down to earth. But if Carlo Ancelotti can’t get a tune out of these players, no one can.

The new season excitement has been tempered by the fact fans once again will be absent from grounds across the country. I don’t think we can truly say that football is properly back until they return, but given what the world has endured and is likely to endure this autumn, their absence is an unfortunate necessity until their safety can be assured.

Everton Training Session Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

The opposition

Though all clubs have felt the impact of the Covid-19 shutdown, you get the impression Tottenham have suffered more than most. Chairman Daniel Levy must wince when he looks around his brand new billion pound stadium, with its 65 food and drink outlets, micro brewery and in-house bakery, completely empty, tills silent.

Tottenham Hotspur v Ipswich Town - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

On the pitch, their sixth place finish last time out means entry into the Europa League qualifying rounds and an even crowded fixture list, which could see them play two competitions (Europa League qualifiers and League Cup) in the space of a week.

With such a packed schedule something has to give, and you would expect the league will be the overwhelming priority as Jose (pronounced Joe-zay, if you’ve watched the All Or Nothing documentary) Mourinho looks to get the club back into the Champions League places.

The arrivals of Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, wanted by Everton, and Matt Doherty are unlikely to set pulses racing, but they are also underrated players who will plug gaps in the side. With Harry Kane now fully fit after his hamstring injury, a tilt at the top four will be seen as a minimum target.

Meanwhile, North London has proven to be a miserable location for Everton, with the Toffees winning just three of 28 Premier League meetings at Spurs, all of which came in successive seasons between 2006-07 and 2008-09.

They are also (and you are probably well aware of this by now) without a win at one of the ‘big six’ since the Bryan Oviedo game at Manchester United in 2013. Getting that particular curse off their back has to be a priority for Carlo this season.

Previous meeting

Tottenham 1-0 Everton July 6 2020 (match report)

FBL-ENG-PR-TOTTENHAM-EVERTON Photo by CATHERINE IVILL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The Toffees went to north London in July still holding faint hopes of a European place, but those hopes were snuffed out thanks to a listless performance and defeat, courtesy of Michael Keane’s first half own goal.

Team news

Everton will be without Mason Holgate after the defender suffered a toe injury against Preston last weekend, with the club still to assess the full severity of the problem.

Everton v Preston North End - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Getty Images

Yerry Mina and Andre Gomes are both fit, despite the latter returning from international duty early. Fabian Delph is back in full training but is to be assessed. Allan, James Rodriguez, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Niels Nkounkou could all make their competitive debuts.

What they said

James Rodriguez Press Conference Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti: “I think that the goal we want to achieve is to fight for the first positions of the Premier League to be able to reach Europe next season. The goal is quite clear.

“We have this desire, this ambition. I think we can.”

“The club did a fantastic job because these players – James, Doucoure and Allan – were the priority for us.

“We were able to sign them and so we’re really happy, I think the club did a fantastic job.

“Now we are working to have a good season, we would like to be competitive in all the competitions and I think with these players the squad has improved and I think we are going to compete.”

Tottenham Hotspur Training Session Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho: “I do see them as top six challengers.I think the 10 point distance last season was just the consequence of how strange last season was.

“When we come back from lockdown it was a group of teams fighting for objectives and some others weren’t. We were, our distance to the top four, top six was giving us a light to chase.

“In Everton’s case they were a few points behind and they were a team who just let the team play and the season go to the end. Now it’s a different picture.

“The best new signing that they had was the coach, Carlo (Ancelotti). Coming again to a similar situation as mine and obviously when a coach of Carlo’s dimension goes to a club it’s not to avoid relegation or stay in mid-table.

“When Carlo goes to Everton, it’s easy to understand what Everton wants, want Carlo.

“Their ambitions, then in the market they bought high quality, they bought players that know Carlo very well, they worked with him in previous clubs and a good squad becomes a much stronger squad.

“So yes I look at them as direct opponents.”

Final word

The minimum I expect is an improvement on their impotent performance at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in July. Given we now have a functioning midfield, I hope that isn’t too much to ask.