Tottenham Hotspur host Everton this weekend knowing a win will give them some breathing space in the race for Champions League football. Top four rivals Arsenal and Liverpool face off against one another on Saturday evening meaning a positive result for Mauricio Pochettino’s men will see them increase their points superiority over at least one of the teams.
It’s one of the most competitive Premier League seasons ever with five teams challenging for three positions. Chelsea appear to have the title sewn up which then leaves Spurs, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United all battling it out for the remaining Champions League positions. Everton, who sit in seventh position, have an outside chance of crashing the party too.
Any opening needs to be punched upon and this weekend is a huge opportunity for Harry Kane and co to do just that.
Spurs had a slight wobble in the middle of February which saw them lose back to back games against Liverpool and Gent. Pochettino's men are still in good form though and those two defeats were there first since December. They've won 11 of their past 16 matches and in the process have scored three or more in seven of them.
Everton make the trip to London in good form having won six of their last 10 matches in all competitions and their only loss since the turn of the year was FA Cup defeat to Leicester City. The highlights of this impressive run being the 4-0 win over Pep Guardiola’s Man City and the 6-3 win over Bournemouth – both at Goodison Park.
However, away from home the Toffees aren’t as free-scoring and their last three matches – Crystal Palace, Stoke City and Middlesbrough – resulted in just the two goals being scored.
Ronald Koeman's men have kept two consecutive clean sheets against Middlesbrough and Sunderland but those stats don't tell the whole story. Everton were fortunate not to be breached with the woodwork being rattled in both matches.
The blue half of Merseyside were caused all sorts of trouble In their most recent match, a 2-0 home win over relegation threatened Sunderland. It wasn't a tactical masterclass from David Moyes but his Black Cats side did stretch the home side with crosses into the penalty area.
The one-time Manchester United manager gambled by having his midfielder push on to support Jermain Defoe and it was the extra bodies in the box that Everton couldn't cope with. The former Tottenham striker nearly capitalised on this when he saw his effort cannon back off the underside of the bar.
It was a similar story in their 0-0 draw with Middlesbrough. Aitor Karanka’s men aren't free-scoring by any means but their best chances did seem to come from crosses and set pieces. They failed to break the deadlock but did strike the post.
Romelu Lukaku got plenty of the plaudits after their 6-3 win over Bournemouth. The Everton defence should be thankful as it was his exploits which helped their questionable performance get swept under the rug.
The created countless chances by working the ball into the channels before getting it into the penalty area with great haste. Two of their goals arrived from crosses. If it wasn't for Joel Robles then the result could have been different on the day.
They're conceding just the 1.03 goals per game this season but they do have an Achilles heel and Spurs have all the tools to exploit it.
In the absence of Kane earlier on in the season Spurs found it difficult to put the ball in the back of the net. However, his return coincided with Spurs finding their groove once again.
While the 23 year old is in the form of his life, he's not directly responsible for the increase in goals throughout the team. Credit should go to Pochettino, who tweaked the system or spoke to the players to make sure his team got more bodies into the penalty area.
After all, the more players in dangerous areas the greater the chance you have of scoring. Since this change, Spurs have seen an increase in goals off the back of crosses.
Both Dele Alli and Kane scored headers in the 4-1 win over Southampton in December and two crosses were put away in the following 4-1 win over Watford. Alli popped up with another two headers in the 2-0 win over Chelsea and the prolific midfielder was at it again against Man City.
Ben Davies nodded home against Villa and Kane made the most of crosses against Fulham and West Brom.
Spurs are littered with players who are in one way or another a threat from set pieces. Kyle Walker is perhaps of the most underrated crossers of the ball in the league and he has the ability to pick out a teammate when it doesn't look possible. Playmaker Christian Eriksen has perfected a way to weight his crosses which makes it near impossible to defend against them.
Harry Kane is a threat but it's Alli who has scored the most headers for the team this season with four. Teams find it difficult to defend against his late surges into the penalty area.
If Spurs just play their own game – look to get the ball wide and get players into the area to support Kane – then they should be able to create dangerous chances against Everton and walkaway with all three points.