While Sunday’s slate of Premier League action offers up just a solitary fixture, it’s a game with plenty on the line in terms of European qualification and — dare I say it? — a late entrant into the title race…
[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 18? ]
Everton v. Tottenham Hotspur — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN [ STREAM ]
The extenuating circumstances making life as difficult as possible for Mauricio Pochettino‘s Tottenham side have been well documented by now — signing no players this summer, the still ongoing stadium saga, the miles-long list of injuries, and now the constant talk of Pochettino leaving for Manchester United. Yet, Spurs find themselves third in the PL table — two points clear of Chelsea and Arsenal — with a game in hand for 24 hours and a chance to move to within two points of second-place Manchester City, if they can manage a win away to Everton on Sunday; the gap between themselves and leaders Liverpool would once again be six points.
While the style and quality of soccer played has suffered — understandably, given the key players so frequently unavailable — this fall and winter has seen Spurs realize a certain level of fighting spirit and togetherness in the face of adversity that has not recently, if ever, been associated with the club. In Pochettino-like terms, the project has — against all odds — advanced to the next level. Even the Spurs fans — a notoriously pessimistic bunch always forecasting the club’s best player being sold to Real Madrid or a late-season collapse set to hit once all the luck runs out — are buying into the idea of Spurs having real staying power as one of the PL’s elite sides.
Everton, on the other side of Sunday’s battle at Goodison Park, have enjoyed an equally uncharacteristically optimistic period since Marco Silva debuted as manager in August. Though results have gone a bit sideways in recent weeks (winless in their last four league games), the Toffees sit 11th in the table and would climb all the way up to seventh with three points against Spurs. It’s games like Sunday – against one of the PL’s top-six sides — which have vexed Everton, though, as they’ve managed just a single point from five games against the big boys this season (a 0-0 draw with Chelsea last month).
INJURIES: Everton — OUT: James McCarthy (fitness) | Tottenham — OUT: Jan Vertonghen (thigh), Davinson Sanchez (hamstring), Eric Dier (appendectomy), Mousa Dembele (ankle), Victor Wanyama (knee), Serge Aurier (groin)