Everton host Tottenham in the Premier League on Sunday and visiting boss Mauricio Pochettino has warned his players their impressive form has made them a target.
Spurs are in title contention after losing just twice in 19 matches, putting them fourth in the table at the start of a new year, four points behind leaders Arsenal.
A run of three consecutive victories mean spirits are high at Tottenham, but there is frustration at Everton.
Roberto Martinez’s men have sunk to 11th in the standings amid a spell of one win in six league matches, even though the goals continue to flow – only Manchester City and Leicester City have scored more this season.
Pochettino is wary of Everton after their dramatic 4-3 defeat at home to Stoke City last time out and also feels opposing teams are becoming more motivated to beat Spurs.
“Everton have a very good team and maybe after the defeat against Stoke City they want revenge,” he said.
“Teams are over-motivated to play against us, because they know they need to run, and be overaggressive, because we are strong.
“But we need to be confident in our skill and try to win the game. We are very ambitious, we always try to work hard to get a positive result.”
On his side’s progress, the ex-Southampton boss added: “In football you need time. To develop players, to develop philosophies, to build a strong team and to build a winning mentality you always need time.
“This is a good moment and period, but we need more time to develop all that and to deliver it. We have seen during this period how we have improved but it is true we are in a process where we have to settle our foundation.
“We have a young squad, we need to have this idea present, but we don’t set limits on our possibilities.”
Martinez, meanwhile, feels the fixture is a perfect opportunity for Everton kickstart their campaign following their recent slump.
He said: “It is a game that could really set our season up. It would give us a really good start for the new year.
“We know that it is a game where we are going to be heavily tested but it is the type of game where we need to show what we have been able to learn from the last few home matches.
“I have been a big admirer of the transformation of Tottenham under Mauricio Pochettino. In the last few seasons, you have seen a team that is getting stronger.
“They are very tough to beat and competitive throughout and I feel this is one of the hardest games we have got left at Goodison this season.
“Arsenal and Spurs, they are two teams that want to get on the ball as we do. They are going to be challenging our possession game but it is a test we are excited for.”
Everton are without James McCarthy, who suffered a recurrence of his hip injury against Stoke. The fitness of Tom Cleverley (Achilles) will be checked ahead of kick-off, while Phil Jagielka (knee), Steven Pienaar and Bryan Oviedo (both hamstring) are also closing on a comeback.
Tottenham are without Mousa Dembele (groin), as well as Alex Pritchard (ankle) and Clinton N’Jie (knee), but Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb are back in contention.
Key Opta stats:
– Everton have won none of their last six Barclays Premier League meetings with Tottenham (D3 L3).
– Spurs have kept a clean sheet in four of their last five Premier League meetings with Everton.
– Romelu Lukaku has scored 11 goals in his last 10 appearances for Everton (all competitions).
– Lukaku has scored in each of his last five Premier League games at Goodison Park (seven goals in total).
– Ross Barkley has scored (6) or assisted (7) 13 Premier League goals in 2015-16, more than his previous four Premier League campaigns combined (10).
– Harry Kane scored 27 Premier League goals in 2015, more than any other player in the competition.
– Tottenham will be looking to win four successive Premier League games for the first time since January 2014.
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