As Nikica Jelavic poked home an injury-time winner against Spurs back in December, there were many (this writer included) who expected that result to be a catalyst for Everton’s season.
Following the drama of that late, late turnaround, The Toffees were sitting pretty in fourth place and six points ahead of their nearest challengers. Unfortunately, they have been unable to maintain that impetus and now find themselves in sixth place, four points off the coveted Champions League spots. But with the two aforementioned sides set to lock horns again this Sunday, Everton should feel confident of a win against a Spurs side who might just be there for the taking.
Everton have quietly established some form over the past few weeks. They have picked up three wins in a row in home games against Reading, Manchester City and Stoke City, but there are few associated with the club jumping up and down as a result of this purple patch.
There is still a shadow looming over the club after that quarterfinal performance against Wigan. The players and managers know that actions speak louder than words; they owe the fans a strong finish to the season. True vindication would only really come if they managed to secure European Football.
A good performance and a result to match against Tottenham will set Everton up for exactly that. They will be fresh, confident and hungry to squeeze their way back into the reckoning for a European spot. A win at White Hart Lane is by no means an easy task, but if Everton can pull it off, they will be just three points behind third-place Spurs with a game in hand.
This should prove to be a massive incentive for David Moyes and his side. Especially as a win here is by no means beyond Everton. We’ve already mentioned their own impressive form, but Spurs have been stuttering along as of late, having lost two of their last three in the league. Granted, they played some good stuff at Swansea last weekend, but they looked leggy in the latter stages as Michael Laudrup's men pushed for an equaliser.
With a Europa League tie sandwiched between their trip to South Wales and Sunday’s clash with Everton, it’ll be interesting to see just how fresh Spurs are against the Toffees. Especially as Andre Villas-Boas is not one to chop and change too much for the Europa League fixtures.
At this point in the season, tiredness is always going to be a factor. Especially for sides like Spurs who are competing on more than one front. This has taken its toll on them in recent weeks. Of the five most recent times they have played a Premier League game the weekend after a Europa League tie, they have lost four times (via WhoScored.com).
For the sake of their own campaign, Everton have to be ready to take advantage of any sluggishness that might occur as a result of this.
Leighton Baines has said this week that this match is not really “make or break” for Everton’s season, but defeat here will surely end any lingering ambitions of a European finish. Especially with trips to Anfield, Stamford Bridge and The Emirates still to come.
Everton need to go to these places with something to fight for. There has much been said about the difficult run-in that Everton have, but when you are in direct competition with teams for a position, the best way to ensure they drop points is by doing it yourself. David Moyes must drill this into his side.
In the Premier League this season, Everton have yet to be outclassed by anyone. They need to start playing and thinking like a team capable of playing in the Champions League. Beginning on Sunday, against Spurs.
Stay tuned to Bleacher Report for more build-up to the game, including my preview on what tactics The Toffees can use to beat Spurs.
In the meantime follow me on Twitter, please: @MattJFootball