Everton vs. Tottenham: Premier League Preview, Team News, Projected Lineups
Everton welcome Tottenham to Goodison Park on Sunday in a game featuring two sides in direct competition for a Champions League place next season.
In the Premier League era, this has been a fixture the Toffees have rarely prospered in, winning just seven of the 40 clashes and losing almost half to their London opponents.
However the last nine meetings have seen a perfectly symmetric three wins, three draws and three losses, highlighting just how evenly matched these sides have become.
Here's a look at some early injury news and possible team projections for Sunday's crunch game that neither side can afford to lose.
Everton Team News and Injury Updates
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Everton should go into this fixture relatively unscathed, with recent injury absentee Kevin Mirallas expected to return.
Darron Gibson and Tony Hibbert have been two other key men often on the sidelines this season, though both came through the entire 90 minutes at Manchester City. Barring any hidden set-backs during training this week, both should again be fit this weekend.
Phil Neville remains a long term injury victim, sidelined until next year after undergoing knee surgery two weeks ago. In his place, Phil Jagielka will continue as captain.
In an ideal world, David Moyes could do with Victor Anichebe regaining fitness, to provide some extra energy from the bench, although this weekend's game may come slightly too soon in his recuperation.
Spurs Team News and Injury Updates
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A key question for Tottenham going into Sunday's clash is the fitness of Gareth Bale, who has been instrumental in so much of his side's play this season.
The Welsh international was withdrawn with a hamstring injury in last weekend's Fulham game and is very doubtful to feature on Saturday. Andre Villas-Boas stated he expected him to miss at least two weeks, surely ruling him out this weekend.
Michael Dawson was another to suffer injury at Fulham, again with a hamstring, and his likely absence will cause a defensive reshuffle, with two of Jan Vertonghen, Steven Caulker and William Gallas pairing up in the middle.
Scott Parker and Benoit Assou-Ekotto are longer term injury worries for Spurs. Neither will play on Sunday, although both have stepped up their rehab and appear likely to return before 2012 is out.
Everton and Tottenham Projected Starting XIs
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Tim Howard; Tony Hibbert, Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin, Leighton Baines; Kevin Mirallas, Leon Osman, Darron Gibson, Steven Pienaar; Marouane Fellaini; Nikica Jelavic.
Everton will continue with Moyes' favoured system, using Fellaini deployed just behind Jelavic in a 4-4-1-1 approach.
If Mirallas is fit enough to return, the Toffees will be able to play what many perceive to be their strongest line-up, with the Belgian most likely to come in for Steven Naismith.
Moyes' most pressing concern may be around his defensive unit that haven't recorded a clean sheet in 10 games, the longest current run in the Premier League.
Hugo Lloris; Kyle Naughton, William Gallas, Steven Caulker, Jan Vertonghen; Sandro, Moussa Dembele; Aaron Lennon, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Clint Dempsey; Jermain Defoe.
Spurs have a number of options for Sunday, mostly surrounding whether Villas-Boas plays 4-2-3-1, or opts to go 4-4-2, as several supporters may prefer.
If Bale misses out, Dempsey is likely to shuffle over to the left, as he did against Fulham and then it's a question of whether Sigurdsson or Emmanuel Adebayor step in just behind Defoe.
Free from suspension, Adebayor improved his case with an impressive showing against Panathinaikos Thursday night, but it remains to be seen if Villas-Boas would be keen implementing a 4-4-2 shape away from home.
Elsewhere, Kyle Naughton perhaps surprisingly came in for Kyle Walker at Fulham, but performed well. It seems likely he will continue at right-back.
Stay tuned for last minute injury news as both managers give their press conferences tomorrow.