Everton are in for a difficult challenge to start off 2016 as they are set to welcome Tottenham to Goodison Park. The 4PM kickoff sees the eleventh placed hosts taking on a Spurs side who have managed to carve out a place in the top four.
Spurs not only have a four point lead over fifth placed Crystal Palace but also have the best goal difference in the Premier League heading into the New Year. A win for Everton could see them go within two points of a European qualification position, depending on Saturday’s results.
A Spurs victory would give them a chance to overtake Manchester City, depending on how Pellegrini’s team get on at Watford.
Everton have looked fairly uninspired at home as of late, having managed two losses and a draw in the Premier League during the month of December. The Toffees lost to both Stoke and Leicester and managed only a point against Crystal Palace. Spurs are like to prove a tougher test than Stoke or Palace.
Everton’s chances have been hurt further by the news that James McCarthy’s hip complaint is looking serious, after once again flaring up during his brief return to the field against Stoke. The home side could also be without the services of former Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley, who has an achilles injury that is likely to keep him out of action.
The visitors are looking to carry their unexpectedly elite performance from the first half of the season into the New Year. Harry Kane is one of the most productive strikers in the Premier League and will be looking to exploit Everton’s defense to add to his tally.
The ability of either team to shut down the main goalscoring threats, in the form of Kane and Lukaku, could well determine the outcome of this fixture. Tottenham have impressed away from home in the Premier League as of late, beating both Watford and Southampton during December. Midfielder Mousa Dembele will not play a part in Sunday’s contest, having been ruled out for up to a month with a groin problem.
Everton boss Roberto Martinez has repeatedly spoken about the need for his team to improve defensively and step up a gear. Spurs will be a true test of whether his players are ready to heed his words. Harry Kane is a tough prospect to handle.
If Everton are able to salvage a win, or even a point, from this contest it sends a strong signal they are ready to push on in 2016, and improve upon their mediocre start to the campaign.