Pitchside Europe

Battle for fourth to take telling twist as Spurs host Everton

There were a few eye-catching results in the Premier League last weekend and while Liverpool's draw at West Brom was certainly a shock, defeats for both Manchester clubs stole the headlines. A Kolo Toure-induced blip from the Reds, however, did see the league start to take shape at the top.

There's now six points between Brendan Rodgers's side and third and while United's loss at Stoke left them seven points adrift, both Everton and Tottenham are within three of that crucial fourth spot.

With the two coming to blows this weekend it will be an intriguing battle between the wannabe European regulars, especially given the fact that Liverpool play host to Arsenal the day before.

The Toffees suffered their first severe blow of the season in defeat at Liverpool recently, as an injury-hit side was put to the sword by the hosts. In the same gameweek though, Tottenham fell to a second humiliating defeat of the season to Manchester City, and after the match Tim Sherwood claimed that his side had just played "the best team on the planet". Jose Mourinho disagreed.

When asked of the Tottenham boss' praise the Portuguese responded saying that for Sherwood "the planet is England", going on to state that Pellegrini's men had been lucky. One thing's for sure, Chelsea certainly proved that City were beatable when the right tactics were deployed.

It's something that Sherwood has downplayed in the past, claiming that winning is down to the players and not the system that they are set up in or the instructions they are given.

Clearly looking to come across as confident in his side's abilities, the newcomer to senior management seemed naive. What happens when your team comes up against one that is better than you, like Manchester City?

And s the two meet at the weekend, it seems pertinent to also ask: are Everton better than Spurs?

Though both were victims of embarrassing defeats in gameweek 22 the Toffees bounced back with a deserved, albeit late victory over Villa while Tottenham couldn't find a way to beat a typically resolute Hull side.

Where Everton's comeback last weekend was put down to a tactical reshuffle from Roberto Martinez, Tottenham made just one change, coming in injury time, as Harry Kane arrived in as a straight swap in their 4-4-2 formation for Emmanuel Adebayor.

If Spurs do deploy their usual system than they will need to be better than Everton all over the pitch, which is something that may prove difficult when looking at each team's stats this season. The Toffees have both scored more (37 to 31) and conceded fewer (25 to 32) goals this season, with the former tally coming despite attempting fewer shots at goal than their hosts on Sunday (15.6 to 16).

Meanwhile, in general play the Merseysiders have averaged more possession than Tottenham (56.4% to 55.1%) and boast a higher pass accuracy (83.5% to 82.3%). In turn their team rating from WhoScored.com of 6.99 is easily in excess of Sherwood's side (6.86) and though the difference between the two is just one point in the standings, the Spurs boss must do something to overturn such statistics this weekend.

With Martinez's side are clearly more efficient at both ends of the pitch, they could also have their first-choice back four available having seen each of Baines, Distin, Jagielka and, most recently, Coleman miss out in recent months.

The positive for the home side, however, is that Everton will not have a recognised striker to choose from, with Kevin Mirallas likely to play up front once again in the absence of Romelu Lukaku.

Tottenham will do well to break down the visitors' backline come Sunday though, with all five of Adebayor's goals this season having come away from home. This may well be a big test of Sherwood's tactical credentials.

Liverpool hold fourth spot going into the weekend but the outcome of Tottenham vEverton could yet be crucial to determine the side which sits in that position come the end of the season.

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

Martin Laurence - @martinlaurence7