Tottenham vs. Everton: Complete Premier League Preview
The Premier League encounter between Tottenham and Everton on Sunday is sure to be one of the most decisive matches in this season's race for the top four.
Spurs currently sit in third place, but have a tenuous hold on their position given their extra match played.
Meanwhile, Everton sit in sixth, just six points behind their North London opponents with a match in hand. If the Toffees win on Sunday, they could effectively draw level with Spurs and gain ground on a Champions League spot.
The big story heading into this match is the health of Gareth Bale.
The Welsh winger suffered a nasty-looking ankle injury in Tottenham's Europa League draw with Basel on Thursday.
While the extent of the injury is still unclear, even the best-case scenario has Bale missing Sunday's match.
This is obviously a concern, as Bale has scored eight of the club's past 13 league goals.
Add in the injury to Aaron Lennon in Thursday's match and one wonders where Spurs' threat will come from.
With Jermain Defoe also out injured for Spurs, the onus falls on Emmanuel Adebayor to hold the ball up in the front and help his side create chances.
For Everton, both Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar are out suspended as they serve the second of their two-match bans.
This is a big setback for the Toffees, as Fellaini leads the side in both goals and assists while Pienaar has been an important cog in the midfield.
These losses put some pressure on Croatian striker Nikica Jelavic, as Everton will hope his goalscoring touch is in high gear on Sunday.
Form and Previous Meetings
Tottenham come into this match off a great 2-1 win at Swansea in last week's Premier League encounter.
However, that win was borne through a goal and assist from Gareth Bale, who will be missing from this match.
Further, Spurs fell behind 2-0 before rallying for a 2-2 draw at home against Basel in the Europa League Thursday, suggesting the side may be tired coming into this match.
Meanwhile, Everton are coming in with three consecutive league wins, including one without Fellaini or Pienaar against Stoke City last week.
If Tottenham are looking for hope heading into this one, they need look no further than their first league match with Everton this season.
With Bale out injured for the fixture at Goodison, Spurs were still able to take a 1-0 lead into stoppage time.
Granted, Everton were able to bag two late goals to turn the result on its head, but Tottenham can take some confidence in the fact that they were able to put themselves in a winning position away from home without Bale.
Tottenham's averages for possession and shots actually go up when Gareth Bale does not start.
For possession, it goes from 51 percent to 52 percent, while shots go from 16 to 25.
Before overreacting, though, these numbers cannot be taken at face value.
After all, Bale has not started four matches this season.
With such a small sample size, one outlier can have a huge impact.
In this case, that outlier is Spurs' home fixture with Reading, where Tottenham had 34 shots and 68 percent of the possession without Bale—numbers that probably would not have gone down had Gareth been in the side.
Hence, conclusions cannot be drawn from these figures.
Still, it marks an interesting trend to follow.
Potential Starting Lineups
Meanwhile, Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas has a few interesting choices to make.
With both Lennon and Bale out injured, one would expect Gylfi Sigurdsson to get the start in the attacking role and Lewis Holtby to fit in somewhere.
Meanwhile, Clint Dempsey could make his return to the starting lineup, his first in the league since early February.
With Dempsey best-suited to the left-sided role of the three, he can sit out there while Holtby does his best on the right.
Further, the starting full-backs are up in the air. With Benoit Assou-Ekotto's performance against Basel on Thursday, though, AVB just might leave him on the bench and opt for Kyle Naughton on the left.
This is a tough one to predict given the injuries to the two sides.
It's unclear just how tired Tottenham will be, while their performance without Bale at Inter Milan does not inspire confidence.
Meanwhile, Everton's win against Stoke City last week may have been a good result, but the below-par performance from Stoke raises questions as to just how well the Toffees can cope without Fellaini or Pienaar.
Spurs have more question marks, but their home-field advantage makes a draw look quite possible.
Tottenham 1-1 Everton
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