Monday, January 4, 2016, 3am AEDT, Goodison Park, watch on Fox Sports
Last five match results
IF you’re not going back to work on Monday – and even if you are – there is some compelling English Premier League viewing in the early hours.
Well, 3am, to be exact.
But don’t fear, those bleary eyes will all be worth it, with this clash between serious title challenger Tottenham Hotspur and one of the league’s most popular teams in Everton set to sizzle.
Spurs have weaselled their way into the top four, enjoying a four point buffer over surprise packet Crystal Palace on the back of a three game winning streak.
They have conceded just one goal in a 3-0 Boxing Day home win over Norwich and a pair of away wins at Southampton (2-0) and most recently Watford, 2-1 on December 28.
A dogged Watford side, despite being reduced to 10 men, looked like it might hold on for a draw after Erik Lamela’s 17th minute strike was countered out by Odion Ighalo’s finish just before the half.
Watford defender Nathan Ake was sent off just after the hour for hacking Lamela and it looked like it would only be a matter of time as the visitors dominated possession.
And that would prove too – if by the finest of margins – as Watford repelled attack after attack, until South Korean international Son Heung-min struck off the bench – in the 89th minute of the match.
It gave Tottenham a relieving 2-1 win and remarkably put it within striking distance of Arsenal at the peak of the Premier League pack – pleasing manager Mauricio Pochettino.
“The victory is very important for us, we worked hard to try and win and are happy because Watford are a difficult team and beat Liverpool recently,” Pochettino said.
”The condition of the pitch made it difficult to play how we usually play but we showed great maturity.
“We need to feel proud for the players, it was a great effort after only playing 48 hours ago.“
He says Spurs can win the title and he wants to do it for their long suffering fans – something they haven’t experienced since 1960-61 – before most of them were born.
“Our supporters are very happy with the team,” Pochettino said.
“They share our values.
“You can see every game at White Hart Lane or away they are unbelievable and back the team.
“It is a very important thing our supporters believe in the team and that we can achieve good things.
“This is the most important thing.
“It is the first step to winning some titles.
“We don’t set limits on our possibilities.
“The important thing is we all believe in the way we took 18 months ago.
“We are very ambitious and the group is strong and there is enough quality.
“In football anything can happen.”
Yes, anything can happen, but one man Pochettino will be very worried about is the brute from Belgium Romelu Lukaku, whose form line is up there with Leicester City superstar Jamie Vardy’s.
Lukaku has only failed to score in one game – against Newcastle on Boxing Day – since the start of November, a superb record that makes him a huge danger.
“Lukaku is in a very good moment and is a very good player but Everton have different players who can put us in a very difficult situation,” Pochettino said.
“Everton have a very good team and after the defeat to Stoke maybe they want revenge.
“Teams now are very over motivated to play against us.
“They know they need to run and be aggressive against us because we are strong.
“But we need to feel confident in our skill and try to win the game.
“Always in different games you need to try to stop them but it’s not different to other games.”
The Toffees enjoyed a pair of different fortunes over the festive season, rolling Newcastle away on Boxing Day, thanks to a 93rd minute goal from Tom Cleverley, but then going home and losing to Stoke, 4-3, in an entertaining affair.
Stoke’s interestingly named Xherdan Shaqiri banged a first half double, but that was cancelled out by a pair to that man Lukaku.
Young sensation Gerard Deulofeu then put Everton in front and it looked like they would keep it that way. but Joselu equalised in the 80th minute and then Everton had some injury time agony of it’s own to deal with when the superb Marko Arnautovic slotted the winner in the 91st minute after a crude tackle in the box by John Stones.
Manager Roberto Martinez lamented the side’s loss of James McCarthy to injury in the first half.
“The first half we weren’t at our best; James McCarthy having to come off affected us,” Martinez said.
“But then the second half we imposed ourselves and created a real good attacking play which gave us the two goals to get ourselves ahead.
“The first half we never started.
“I think we were very sloppy in possession and gave the ball away too cheaply that allowed Stoke to have some sort of threat on the counter.
”We are a young team but we need to learn how to manage games and how to go through these periods a little better.
“It is tough to take for everyone.“
He and his charges will need to put the heartbreak behind them quickly, with Tottenham waiting and they will have to do it without McCarthy.
“As a team we know that we are not far off becoming a really, really strong team,” he said.
“Our performances going forward and our performances in between the boxes have been very impressive.
”It’s just defensively we are putting ourselves in a very difficult position to get the score lines reflecting what happens in our performances.
“That’s what we’re looking to improve, to become better and make sure the second half of the season we get the rewards from all the pain we’ve had to suffer in the last few weeks.“
Things look tough without McCarthy, but they could also be missing Cleverley, who is struggling with a groin injury. Leighton Baines was rested against the Potters but should return in place of Brendan Galloway at left back, which will be welcome for Everton’s favourite son.
Tottenham has nearly a full deck of cards to choose from, with the only notable absentee Mousa Dembele, who has been ruled out with an ankle injury.
Everton: Tim Howard, Seamus Coleman, John Stones, Ramiro Funes Mori, Leighton Baines, Gareth Barry, Muhamed Besic, Gerard Deulofeu, Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas, Romelu Lukaku
Tottenham: Hugo Lloris, Kyle Walker, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Danny Rose, Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Erik Lamela, Son Heung-min, Christian Eriksen, Harry Kane
Match result: Tottenham wins ($2.58 with CrownBet.com.au)
Correct match score: Tottenham wins 2-1 ($10 with CrownBet.com.au)
Total match goals: Over 2.5 ($1.80 with CrownBet.com.au)
This one has a tight Spurs win all over it. The men from Tottenham have become some what of a hoodoo team for Everton, which hasn’t been ably to beat Spurs in the last six clashes (three losses and three draws). They have also been unable to even find the net in four of their last six, but we think with the way Lukaku is playing and his number one set up man Ross Barkley, they should at least be able to bang one in. Both teams are good at drawing games and that is no doubt a possibility, being that it is on Toffees turf, but – wait for it – we are starting to believe the Tottenham hype. Every year it seems they are title challengers at the start of the season, before reality kicks in and they are clamouring for a Champions League spot. That might still happen, but so far they are tied for the least number of lost games in the Premier League and they are finally starting to defeat the sides they are supposed to. Everton is one of those teams and we think the likes of Lamela, the rejuvenated Harry Kane and a back line that boasts power defender Toby Alderweireld should be enough to get past Lukaku and company.
First goal scorer tips
Romelu Lukaku ($5.50 with WilliamHill.com.au)
We’re packed with stats today. The Belgian has fired in 11 goals in his last 10 appearances for Everton in all competitions and he has scored in each of his last five Premier League matches at Goodison Park – in two of those twice. Lukaku has struck a rich vein of form and while Lloris and that big back line led by Vertonghen and Alderweireld will be difficult to penetrate, if anyone can do it, it’s this man.
Arouna Kone ($8.50 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Lives in the shadow of Lukaku, and for good reason, but can be a stunning striker in his own right, given the opportunity. Wait and see what side is rolled out, but if Kone is in it, at $8.50 he represents some great value in first goal scorer markets.
Harry Kane ($5 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Check out this stat: Harry Kane scored 27 goals in the Premier League during the 2015 calendar year. During the 2014/15 campaign, 16 of his 21 goals came after the break. He already has 11 this season and, if that is anything to go by, he could be about to make a mockery of the league. After a rough start to the season, he’s broken the shackles and shown that prodigious talent that has made him a king at Tottenham. We expect him to get on the board in this one and you can guarantee that talented midfield of Eriksen, Lamela and company will be looking for their marquee man early and often when they go forward. One of the most talented strikers in the Premier League and a must for any first goal scorer bets.
Nacer Chadli ($10 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Finally fit and firing after battling ankle ligament injuries, Chadli will look to rekindle his supreme form of last campaign, where he fired in 11 goals in 28 appearances for Tottenham. Has spent most of this season appearing as a substitute, but he will be keen to break into the starting 11 and if he does, becomes a dangerous threat coming in off the left. Only has one goal in 16 appearances this year and needs to do more if he wants to stamp his name in that Tottenham starting line up. And they will be hoping he can, because they need to have him fit and firing if they want to be any chance of being the Premier League Champions – just like punters who want to turn their hard earned into a reward.
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