Everton v Tottenham, Premier League, January 5, 2010
The contrast between these two teams at the end of the manic four game Premier League run over the Christmas period could not be marked. Spurs, making big plans to sign David Beckham on loan, have won three out of three against Aston Villa, Newcastle and Fulham.
Everton meanwhile lost at Stoke on Saturday, drew with relegation strugglers West Ham in the game before and have generally failed to take any momentum from their surprise 2-1 victory at Manchester City a couple of weeks ago. To add to the concern among Evertonians, Tim Cahill has joined up with the Australia squad at the Asian Games and the Toffees will have to do without their best player and most likely goal scorer.
Many, including this author, predicted big things for Everton in 2010/2011. A horrible start has seen them struggle for pretty much the whole campaign despite a few decent results – the late comeback against Manchester United, a derby win over Liverpool and the victory at Eastlands.
Thankfully, the Premier League insanity over managerial changes and â€œcrisis clubsâ€ has not yet extended to Everton thanks to the sterling job done by David Moyes over the past few years but question marks will be raised if the blue side of Merseyside is pulled into a relegation scrap in the first few months of 2011.
One glance at the league table shows Everton have struggled for goals, scoring just 21 in 20 matches and surprisingly their away form is better than their home form this season. The loss of Tim Cahill to international duty is compounded by the fact that he has scored nine of their total league goals in 2010/2011.
Without the Australian, Moyes may be tempted to bring in Jermaine Beckford to partner Louis Saha and will be eager for Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar, reportedly a Spurs transfer target, to make things happen from midfield. The Toffees backline has been decent this campaign and famously (at least to some on Twitter who hailed Phil Neville) shackled Gareth Bale in the 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane earlier this season.
The difficulty facing Spurs was laid bare on Saturday. They laboured to a 1-0 win over Fulham but all their main rivals won and they will need a level of consistency not seen at White Hart Lane for decades to keep up a surprise title challenge. The seemingly imminent arrival of David Beckham should help the club battle domestically and in the Champions League but one canâ€™t help thinking that Tottenham need a world class striker rather than a former England captain who plays in midfield.
The likes of Luka Modric, Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon have been sensational in recent weeks, ably supported by Rafael van der Vaart in the hole and Wilson Palacios who appears to be returning to his best form. The defence has also looks a tougher proposition with Michael Dawsonâ€™s return from injury and kept two clean sheets in the last two games.
Without Jermain Defoe due to suspension, Tottenham looked a little lightweight up front with Roman Pavlyuchenko providing little against Fulham on Saturday and this could be the right encounter to use Peter Crouch.
Younes Kaboul also misses out due to a red card picked up against Newcastle and Vedran Corluka could start in place of Alan Hutton, a substitution that took place due to injury against the Cottagers. Spurs have surprised many by producing league wins despite their Champions League exertions.
It is now 10 games unbeaten for Harry Redknappâ€™s side and they would love to extend their winning run in a tough away game, ensuring David Beckham arrives to a winning team. Thereby setting up a mouth watering clash with Manchester United at home in their next league game.
It is though difficult to see Everton just falling by the way side in this match and we can expect a lot of fight from David Moyesâ€™ side. Spurs look the favourites but they might have to settle for a draw at a ground where they havenâ€™t lost in six visits.
101gg predicts: Everton 1 – Tottenham 1.