Everton away has proven a tough encounter for Tottenham Hotspur in recent seasons. The North London side haven’t secured up a win at Goodison Park in their last three attempts, picking up just one point out of a possible nine since 2009.
At present, however, the respective form between the two sides couldn’t be more contrasting. Whereas the Toffees have failed to register a win in their last four encounters, drawing three, the North London side have managed to secure vital victories over the past three games, leapfrogging their weekend opponents into a Champions League spot and moving three points of them.
Nevertheless, the battle to overcome Everton will certainly be a tough one. David Moyes has received ample praise for the way his side has started this season and rightly so. While the Merseysiders often begin their domestic campaign in poor form, his team has been drawing in the plaudits following an impressive start to the season, despite fading away to an extent in recent weeks.
Imperative to their displays has been Belgian Marouane Fellaini. The ‘Divine Afro’ has been employed further forward this season in order to offer an aerial threat and really attack the opposition rather than defend in the middle of the park.
With it, Moyes is capable of bringing out the physical capability of the Belgian, allowing him the link up with the likes of Leon Osman, Nikica Jelavic and Kevin Mirallas. It has worked to great effect with Fellaini netting eight times this season, while assisting a further four in the Premiership.
Since he set-up Steven Naismith’s equaliser in the Merseyside Derby back in October, the 25-year-old has been involved in every goal the Toffee’s have scored - a run of six games, not including the 1-1 draw with Norwich City last month in which he was suspended.
If Spurs are hopeful of picking up a result at Goodison Park on Sunday, it’s pivotal that the North London side nullify the treat of the powerful Belgian. Enter Sandro stage right. The Brazilian Beast has been in inspiring form under Andre Villas-Boas this season, all but seeing his name as one of the first on the team sheet.
Following injury to Scott Parker, the youngster has stepped up to the plate in spectacular fashion. He continues to endear himself to the fans with his impressive performances and guitar playing exploits, coupled with his lack of knowledge on freight trains and his own #sandroBeast hashtag.
The 23-year-old was signed back in 2010, and after an injury ridden year last season, has begun to really showcase his worth during the current campaign. Tough in the tackle and possessing the mean streak that the Tottenham Hotspur midfield has been devoid of in recent years, it’s hardly a shock to see him emerge as a fan favourite.
Therefore, ahead of the trip to Merseyside, it’s vital that Andre Villas-Boas sets the tenacious 23-year-old upon Fellaini. The physical presence of the less-muscular equivalent of Macy Gray will give any team the heeby-jeebies, but with a lack of Michael Dawson the defence, he’s going to need a player of similar build and athleticism to combat him.
Sandro will be just the man to stop the powerful Belgian in his tracks, especially if he has the time and space to bring the ball down and play. The Brazilian has emerged as one of the finest players in his position over the last four months, having made the most interceptions of any midfielder in the league at the time of writing.
While it would be hard to tag Everton a one man team, without Fellaini they lose one of their major attacking and defensive threats. The Toffees may be on a poor run of form, but they are still unbeaten at home in their last 11 games.
If Sandro can nullify the 25-year-old, it will also allow Mousa Dembele to push forward and support the expected attacking trio of Clint Dempsey, Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon, a role which the former Fulham ace will need to excel in with Gareth Bale ruled out for the next two weeks.
Nevertheless, the main battle of the encounter will, unsurprisingly, come in the middle of the park between the two midfield titans. The performance of both will likely decide the outcome on the afternoon, meaning it’s vital that Andre Villas-Boas releases the beast from his shackles and prove that his bite can live up to his bark.