Spurs v Everton: Same old story as Toffees fight back from false start

Everton’s season is following last season’s pattern, with a false start being followed by a quick recovery - but will that continue against Tottenham at White Hart Lane this Saturday?

EVERTON spent part of the international break trudging up mountains in the Lake District after David Moyes decided to take his squad on a bonding trip to Cumbria.

It was, in many ways, a brilliant metaphor for the club’s fortunes on the field, as the Toffees start the slow, painful climb up the league after another dismal start to the campaign.

Last season Moyes’ boys kicked off with a 6-1 home defeat to Arsenal and were three points above the relegation zone at the end of November.

The recovery began with the visit of Spurs in December, as the Toffees battled back from 2-0 down in the final 12 minutes to equalise, and then survived a Jermain Defoe penalty in injury-time.

Everton went on to lose just two of their last 26 league fixtures, with one of them coming in a narrow 2-1 defeat at White Hart Lane.

Spurs went 2-0 up again, but Yakubu hit back in the second half and Everton were only denied another 2-2 draw because Landon Donovan somehow failed to net an open goal from two yards out.

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Despite that, the Toffees went on to finish eighth, two points behind Liverpool. Everton were primed for an exciting campaign in 2010/11, but another false start has left them playing catch-up again.

Moyes’ side took three points from their first six games and failed to record a league win in August and September, leaving them in the bottom three at the start of this month.

However, the recovery has already started, and an impressive win away at Birmingham was followed by a 2-0 derby victory over Liverpool at Goodison Park on Sunday.

Despite their slow start to the season, Everton are just five points behind Tottenham, and a deceptively strong line-up is more than capable of competing with the top sides if they can close the gap.

Keeper Tim Howard kept goal for the USA at the World Cup during the summer, while England centre-back Phil Jagielka is a firm favourite with Fabio Capello.

Playmaker Mikel Arteta has also been linked with England, despite being Spanish, and the 28-year-old doubled his goal tally at the weekend, scoring the second goal against Liverpool after netting against Manchester United.

Arteta is likely to be protected by Johnny Heitinga in the absence of Marouane Fellaini, but Everton also have plenty of ammunition in attacking areas.

Having unearthed the likes of Wayne Rooney, Jack Rodwell and Dan Gosling in recent years, Everton seem to have found another gem in 21-year-old Seamus Coleman, a right-back who has been moved up to the flank – much like Spurs’ own Gareth Bale.

Indeed, it was Coleman who beat Bale to set up Everton’s first goal at Goodison last season, and it was Coleman who raced to the by-line to set up Tim Cahill for the opener against Liverpool at the weekend.

That was Cahill’s fourth goal from his seven appearances so far this season, and Moyes will also have been pleased with Yakubu’s performance in the derby.

The 27-year-old has scored just six goals in 42 games since suffering a serious Achilles injury at White Hart Lane in November 2008, and Moyes could have both Louis Saha and Victor Anichebe back from injury this weekend.

However, Nigerian striker Yakubu looked back to his best on Sunday, combining pace and power to give the Reds rearguard a torrid time.

The verdict: Spurs have won three of their four games after Champions League matches this season, but were behind against both Wolves and Aston Villa before coming back to win at the Lane.

The Lilywhites have home advantage again this weekend as they return from Milan, but hard-working Everton have the players to capitalise if they get their noses in front.

Last season’s clashes were both rollercoaster thrillers and both sides go into this lunchtime clash with back-to-back league wins behind them.

It could be close but Spurs’ trump card, Rafael van der Vaart, didn’t play in Milan so he will be raring to go. He could make the difference – again.

Prediction: 2-1 – Spurs go third in the table and then sit down to watch their rivals bid to emulate their victory.