Everton vs Tottenham Hotspur: Five Key Battles

Leighton Baines

Spurs head to Goodison on the back of three wins in a row, whilst Everton were unlucky to only draw at Manchester City in their last game. Who will triumph in this battle in the race for fourth?

Here is a rundown of some of the key match-ups...

Leighton Baines vs Aaron Lennon

With Gareth Bale side-lined, Spurs' right flank will be vital to their play in the final third, with Lennon the only man offering real width to their attacks. If Baines can keep Lennon in check, Everton should be able to keep most of Spurs' attacking play in the centre, where space will be limited. As always Baines will also be important to Everton going forward, and Lennon will have plenty of defensive work to do. Which of these two wins their battle on the flank will be a key factor in the result on Sunday,

Marouane Fellaini vs Sandro

Fellaini has been a sensation this year, with his goal against Manchester City last week being his eighth of the season in the league. So far, very few sides have been successful in stopping the giant Belgian, but this weekend he will face one of his toughest opponents yet. Sandro has also been in superb form, and is perhaps the standout defensive midfielder in the Premiership this season. If Sandro can restrain Fellaini, Spurs will cut off a huge part of Everton's attacking prowess. This really should be a match-up to savour this weekend.

Darron Gibson vs Mousa Dembele

Dembele made in six wins from six starts for Spurs against Fulham, and his all round play in their midfield is already crucial to Spurs' style of play. As with Fellaini, if Dembele can be nullified then his side's chances of success take a significant hit. Gibson was impressive against Manchester City, and he will need to be on his game again on Sunday to stop Dembele dominating the midfield.

Steven Naismith vs Kyle Naughton or Jan Vertonghen

From what I've seen of him, Steven Naismith has been excellent for Everton this season, and would perhaps be getting more attention if it wasn't for the show-stealing exploits of Fellaini at the club. Operating from the right flank, the Scot provides a dynamic threat for Everton that has been especially important with Pienaar's form dipping slightly recently. Spurs continue to have to rotate their back four around due to injuries, and if Dawson is out for the weekend, Vertonghen may move into the centre with Naughton switched to the left (assuming Walker is fit to take his place on the right). Whoever lines up at left back for Spurs, they will have an important job to do in tracking Naismith.

Sylvain Distin vs Jermain Defoe

Jermain Defoe is on fire at the moment, with four goals in the past three games. He showed at Fulham that he will likely stick away any clear chance he is given, so Distin will have to make sure he doesn't give him an inch. Defoe's pace and movement looks especially effective when playing away, so Everton's back four will have to avoid pushing up too far and giving him room. Adebayor is available to Spurs again too, and the centre backs will have to be aware of him linking up with Defoe if Villas-Boas opts to play two upfront at any stage of the match.

image: © wonker

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