Tottenham Hotspur begin their 2016/17 Premier League campaign with a tricky fixture against Everton at Goodison Park.
Despite finishing third in the Premier League in the last campaign, Tottenham Hotspur ended the season on a disappointing note. Mauricio Pochettino’s side looked to be legitimate title contenders with only a handful games to go, but seemed to lift their foot off the pedal once the pressure kicked in. Eventually, Spurs failed to consolidate on at least a second place, and saw their city rivals Arsenal leapfrog them on the last day of the season.
To prove that the previous season’s performance was no fluke, Pochettino has been working hard in the off-season to bring in quality players to re-establish the chase for the Premier League. Southampton hard man Victor Wanyama has been roped in along with AZ Alkmaar talisman Vincent Janssen. Both seen as understudies to existing players, they will be more than happy to fill in the boots when needed. There seems to be no significant change to the solid defence that conceded the joint-lowest number of goals in the league last time around.
Everton, on the other hand, lack the monotony seen by Saturday’s opponents. A disappointing 12th placed finish in the league saw the club bid farewell to their manager Roberto Martinez. Despite playing a fluid and attacking brand of football, the Spanish coach’s side was often criticized for a poor defensive showing.
Thus, the club turned to former Southampton boss Ronald Koeman to turn things around for the Toffees. Despite many seeing Everton as a mediocre outfit, the club hierarchy believes that the team must be competing in at least the Europa League, if not the Champions League. The Dutch gaffer has made a number of significant changes at the club this summer.
The most notable of the changes is the £47.2 million sale of centre-back John Stones to Manchester City. While some may consider this as good business by Everton, the club are bereft of one of their most important players. However, the signing of Ashley Williams have the Everton faithful breathing a sigh of relief. Idrissa Gueye, Maarten Stekeleberg and Shani Tarashaj are the other additions to the side. While the first two could be considered as legitimate contenders to the starting lineup, Tarashaj, 21, has a Herculean task if he is to usurp number one striker Romelu Lukaku.
Tactics and Lineups
Tottenham look set to field the same back five that gave them tremendous success for the majority of last season. Toby Alderweireld, one of the players in the 15/16 PFA Team of the Year, would have a tricky test dealing against the physical and pacey Romelu Lukaku – should he pass a late fitness test. In midfield, due to the suspension of Moussa Dembele, Wanyama is in contention to make his Spurs debut. He will partner Eric Dier in the middle of the park. Further down the pitch, Harry Kane is expected to lead the line, with an attacking trio of Lamela, Alli and Eriksen playing in behind him.
For Everton, Ramiro Funes Mori is expected to fill in the void of John Stones, as Ashley Williams will not be competing against Tottenham. Leighton Baines has had a dull couple of seasons and will be looking to go all guns blazing in the league opener. New signing Idrissa Gueye is expected to start ahead of the shaky looking Jamie McCarthy. Lukaku is not a guaranteed starter due to a slight injury, but is still expected to be risked by Koeman as Everton would like to start off on the right note.
With both teams likely to employ a 4-2-3-1 system, midfield domination is key to see which side takes the upper hand. Gareth Barry, who has recently been handed the vice-captaincy, will have his work cut out dealing with the quick and physical Wanyama in midfield.
Gueye is an excellent signing for the Toffees, and will be stationed at the heart of midfield alongside Barry. However, the Senegalese is not the best going forward and could be caught out of position on a number of occasions, given the tempo Tottenham enjoy playing at.
Watch out for:
After a dismal run with England at Euro 2016, the Spurs striker will be itching to get back to scoring regularly for his club. He has managed to touch the 20 goals mark in both of the previous two seasons and will like to make that three years in a row. With the signing of Vincent Janssen, Kane would be on his toes as failure to perform could see him relegated to the bench.
- Everton are winless in their last seven Premier League meetings with Tottenham Hotspur (W0 D4 L3).
- No Premier League team has lost more games on the opening weekend than Spurs (9) – level with West Ham
- Kane is one goal away from reaching 50 in the Premier League. Should he achieve it against Everton, he would be the 9th quickest in history to score half a century of goals in the top tier.
- The Toffees have kept the fifth-most clean sheets in England’s top flight.
* All stats via Opta.
Everton win: 21/10
Tottenham win: 13/10
* Odds via Sky Bet.
Everton 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Given the major changes at Everton this summer, it could take them a while before they return to confidence. Also, a potential injury to star striker Lukaku would not help their cause. Tottenham, on the other hand, will be gunning with confidence, given an impressive pre-season that saw them whip Inter Milan 4-1. Hard to look beyond a Spurs win here.
Kick off time
IST: 20:30 hrs
GMT (UK): 15:00 hrs