A crucial match in the battle for Champions League qualification takes place on Sunday, February 9, 2014 (5:30 AM Pacific, 13:30 GMT), as Tottenham face Everton at White Hart Lane for Matchday 25 of the English Premier League. The two rivals trail fourth-placed Liverpool who defeated Arsenal at home one day earlier, so it could be a chance for them to stake to remain near the lucrative 4th placed spot.
First setbacks for Sherwood
Hosts Tottenham have suffered some setbacks lately in the race for fourth, after receiving a 5-1 hammering at home from Manchester City and dropping two points at Hull (1-1) in the space of four days. The City defeat was the first in the short managerial career of Tim Sherwood, although he was encouraged by the way his players responded in the next game after conceding an early goal to the Tigers. But, the Spurs’ manager knows that failure to win three points for a third game in a row will dent the hopes of achieving this season’s top target.
Last January’s transfer window was not the most exciting time for the White Hart Lane faithful, as Tottenham did not sign any new players. Their injury situation seems to be easing a bit though, and Sherwood has more players in his disposal. Midfielder Paulinho made a goalscoring return at Hull, defender Jan Vertonghen was back in the starting line-up too and center back Younès Kaboul was on the bench.
The Everton game could signal the return for midfielder Sandro, winger Andros Townsend is back after a nine-game absence through injury, while Mousa Dembélé returns to the squad as well. So Sherwood has some selection dilemmas, especially in midfield, and it all depends on whether the players returning are ready to start. But it will be too early for Erik Lamela and the manager will probably keep faith with Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado up front.
Stay near fourth
Everton, on the other side, suffered a heavy 4-0 defeat at Anfield against their local rivals Liverpool, but bounced back in the home game against Aston Villa for a hard-fought 2-1 win. Roberto Martinez can certainly be proud of the way his players responded after some serious setbacks, like the Anfield defeat, Bryan Oviedo’s freak injury and the loss of their most reliable goal scorer Romelu Lukaku. Against Villa, they were on the ropes for 74 minutes, but Steven Naismith provided the equalizer and Kevin Mirallas won the game with a brilliant free-kick five minutes from time. Winning in the face of such adversity can only be a good sign for the Blues.
The absence of Lukaku forced Martinez to utilize Mirallas as a striker against Villa, and thankfully the Belgian came up with the goods, albeit from a set-piece. He will probably lead the line against Spurs once again, as Lacina Traoré -the towering Ivory Coast striker who was drafter on loan from Monaco to cover for Lukaku- is some days away from first-team action with a hamstring problem. Lukaku and Oviedo are obviously out alongside long-term absentees Arouna Koné and Darron Gibson, but the talented Spanish winger Gerard Deulofeu could return for the first time since pulling a hamstring against Fulham on December 12. Seamus Coleman reclaims the right back slot from John Stones, after returning as an unused substitute against Villa.
Tottenham vs Everton Prediction
This game could prove to be a watershed for the eventual winners in the battle for the top four, so both teams will go out to get three points. Spurs are rather inconsistent at home this season, while Everton -Anfield apart – have been a tough nut to crack away from home. This will probably be a very tight game, as were the previous two between the two teams, both ending in a draw. Result: 1-1.
Tottenham vs Everton Television
The match will be televised on USA Network, and Sky Sports 1 (UK).