Tottenham welcome Everton to White Hart Lane on Sunday in a match that might just be one of the most challenging fixtures left this season.
Yes, Arsenal and Manchester United lie waiting in the weeks ahead for Tottenham, but on present form it is impossible to discount the Blues’ threat.
Consider that, since the start of 2017, Everton are easily the best team in the Premier League on form. They lead all contenders by three points over that time period, having won five, drawn two and lost no matches.
Tottenham, of course, aren’t far behind. They, too, have won five matches since January 1, and drawn two. Only the 2-0 loss to Liverpool set them back on Everton’s pace, who have played one less game.
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The similarities don’t stop there either. Both teams have scored 17 goals, most of which have been scored by the two sides’ 23-year-old centre forwards, Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane. Indeed, the two strikers are currently tied for the most goals scored this Premier League season.
Ronald Koeman and Mauricio Pochettino also share professional backgrounds, having both enjoyed some success with Southampton prior to their current jobs. Back in their playing days, their time at Barcelona and Espanyol, respectively, overlapped as well.
Broadly speaking the two sides share a tactical philosophy as well. Everton might not take quite as aggressive an approach when it comes to pressing as Tottenham, but they enjoy a narrow attack flanked by aggressive full-back-cum-wingers. Koeman is even known to occasionally implement a three-at-the-back system similar to Pochettino’s to get the most out of his players’ potency.
The differences exist in the quality of players available to the two men. Pochettino can call upon arguably the best centre-back duo in the Premier League in Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen. Koeman, meanwhile, scrambled to acquire 32-year-old Ashley Williams before the window shut in August.
Which isn’t to discredit Williams or any other player on Everton. They are, almost to a man, talented — with an astericks.
Ross Barkley is a gem, though remains unpolished. Morgan Schneiderlin was once on of Pochettino’s best assets at Southampton, but he spent the past two seasons wasted on Manchester United’s bench. Ademola Lookman is a genuinely exciting prospect, but only just began to feature in the Premier League.
There are analogs across the Tottenham squad for these players and others. That doesn’t mean, however, that they will be looking across the pitch into a funhouse mirror on Sunday.
This is an Everton squad that fought Tottenham to a draw over their last three meetings. In none of those prior meetings were they on quite the high they are on at this moment. This will be a particularly tricky match as Pochettino attempts to sustain Spurs’ momentum.