- Premier League
Toffees to make life sticky for Spurs
When going through a tough time during the season there are certain teams in the Premier League you just want to avoid. Unfortunately for Tottenham, one of those is Everton.
Despite Spurs moving up to third in the Premier League after capitalising on Chelsea slipping up at Southampton last weekend, a 2-2 draw at home to Basel in the Europa League quarter-finals acted as something of a setback, and their season may well hinge on the extent of Gareth Bale's ankle injury sustained on Thursday.
Tottenham's victory over Swansea in the Premier League a week ago was their first in four outings. It was a much-needed victory for Andre Villas-Boas' men as they have bitter North London rivals Arsenal breathing down their necks for one of the coveted Champions League spots.
The Gunners are just four points adrift, but crucially have a game in hand, as do Chelsea. And though it seems the race to reach next season's Champions League is between these three clubs, Everton will be out to gate-crash the party.
The Toffees have thrived this season and have raised their game since the start of last month. David Moyes' side were in contention to fight for a top-four place in the closing months of 2012, but a poor run of form saw them drop off the pace. However, three consecutive wins - including a fine display over Manchester City - in the league have put Everton right back into the mix, and the blue half of Merseyside will be a huge threat at White Hart Lane.
Clean sheets have been a problem for Spurs in recent weeks; they were on their way to three points against Liverpool at Anfield only to ship two in the remaining 25 minutes to lose the contest. Then, against Inter Milan, they let in four but managed to scrape through in extra-time to reach the Europa League quarter-finals. And against Fulham, the player who used to light up the terraces in North London Dimitar Berbatov scored the only goal of the game to stun his former side.
Everton have experienced contrasting fortunes and have been stubborn to break down. Two clean sheets in a row have kept out City and Stoke, and the defensive trio of goalkeeper Tim Howard, Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka have grown together as a unit. They will need to be solid to keep Everton's Champions League hopes alive at The Lane.
Going into this fixture Tottenham have won one of their last five matches. Before their recent difficulties, they were on fire with six wins in seven.
Since being dumped out of the FA Cup by Wigan at home in the quarter-finals Everton have totally transformed. The loss has been their only one since the end of February, and they are coming good at just the right time in the campaign.
Tottenham wish Bale could be wrapped up in cotton wool for every game, and they face an anxious wait to see if the Welshman will be fit. With 13 goals in his last 14 games he would be a major blow to Spurs. They also face a nervy wait over Aaron Lennon, another to limp out of the Basel draw.
The visitors have question marks over last weekend's match-winner Kevin Mirallas, who was unstoppable against Stoke after running from his own half to score a memorable goal. And they are without Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar, who are both suspended.
- Tim Howard v Emmanuel Adebayor Everton's shot-stopper has been on top of his game in recent weeks, and if the American keeps playing well Spurs' leader in attack may not get much joy in front of goal Moussa Dembele v Leon Osman Both men pull the strings in midfield and will provide support up front whenever they can Scott Parker v Darren Gibson The game-breakers and men tasked with nullifying the threat of Dembele and Osman
One to watch
When Bale plays more often than not he is the player to keep an eye on. But the one who will need stopping is Leighton Baines, who has eight goals and eight assists for the season. Always a willing runner boasting a huge set of lungs, Baines will be vital for Everton both at the back and in attack.
Nikica Jelavic has been a shadow of his brilliant best - he scored 11 goals in 16 games last season but only has eight in 35 during this campaign. However, the Croatian will always get chances, and Jan Vertonghen must be alert to the danger Everton's frontman brings. Vertonghen has produced stellar performances in his debut season in the Premier League, but Jelavic with his bustling presence will give him a rough time at the back.
Prediction and bet
Spurs are not quite at the level they were playing at a few months ago, and this could be the chance for Everton to capitalise. However, with key attackers missing for both clubs, a 1-1 draw at 5/1 on bet365 looks to be the decent bet.
Final score: 1-1