There is no easing in to the new Premier League season this weekend as the 2020/21 campaign kicks off with a host of mouthwatering fixtures, including Tottenham Hotspur versus Everton on Sunday.
Both clubs endured underwhelming seasons by their own standards last time out, but mid-campaign appointments Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti have both now had an extended period to settle in, as well as a summer window to spend.
Spurs have gone for Premier League experience with the signings of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Matt Doherty and Joe Hart, while Ancelotti has looked further afield, recruiting two players he has worked with in the past, who pack serious world class quality on their day: Allan from Napoli and James Rodriguez from Real Madrid.
Abdoulaye Doucoure is also expected to join the Toffees, completing a trident of astute acquisitions. And with that, both these clubs will be looking to push for European places this season, meaning an opening-day win is absolutely crucial. But, what can we expect from this scintillating showdown?
Harry Kane will get on the scoresheet
The England international has underwhelmed by his very high standards during the previous two campaigns. Tallies of 17 and 18 goals in the league are both still impressive hauls, but for a striker who hit 30, 29, 25 and 21 the four seasons prior, he will be frustrated with his own output in the last 24 months.
He will no doubt be champing at the bit to hit the ground running and put up a more convincing challenge in the Golden Boot race this season. Fortunately for Kane he kicks off with a meeting against Everton, a club he boasts a fantastic scoring record against.
In 10 matches against the Merseyside club, Kane has found the back of the net on nine occasions, including eight in the last five. That has also culminated in seven wins and three draws, with the prolific marksman yet to taste defeat against the Toffees. It doesn’t get much sweeter than that.
Ancelotti has looked to create a more disciplined and structured Everton side in his mould, but even against the most compact of defences, Kane just seems to find a way to instinctively breach the backline, create space, and finish with devastation. Expect Mourinho’s main man to leave his mark once again.
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There will be no opening-day clean sheet
We’re not expecting fireworks on day one, but we are expecting a lively affair between two sides who have aspirations of challenging in the upper slopes this season. Spurs are yet to rediscover their zeal since Mauricio Pochettino parted company, and Mourinho will be desperate to reignite that dwindling flame, while Ancelotti’s summer spree has added an extra layer of pressure on his shoulders, so he will be eager generate immediate optimism from matchday one.
Whether Rodriguez starts from the off is yet to be determined, but the suggestion is that Allan will be handed a starting berth. The Brazilian may not possess the creativity of his Colombian counterpart, but his defensive capabilities will allow Everton to play with much more freedom further up the pitch.
With Allan sweeping up, recycling possession and anchoring the midfield, the likes of Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin will have greater license to operate with less restriction up top (simply put: with less onus to track back) and could really flourish with a competent midfield general running the show further back.
However, for all his tenacity and enterprise, Allan is still facing the prospect of his Premier League debut, and against an attack with the likes of Kane, Son Heung-min and Steven Bergwijn, so expect Spurs to find the back of the net at least once, but this could prove a very tight contest.
A draw the most likely result
Speaking of tight contests, we expect this result to end in a stalemate. Goals shouldn’t be a problem, but with both sides packing enough quality to strike back, we could very well see a 1-1 or 2-2 materialise at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Although both clubs will be eager to kick things off by getting three points on the board, there will be no throwing caution to the wind. Mourinho and Ancelotti boast enough experience to know the importance of parking the bus but with the hand break off, to paraphrase Slaven Bilic.
That means getting the basics right first, setting up with proficient defensive lines, and then allowing the attacking players to go to work. As mentioned, there will be an expectation at both Goodison Park and north London to improve upon last season, but both sets of fans should be happy with a point here.
Given the congested schedule and an unusually short pre-season, there’s unlikely to be too many ambitious tactical gambits in these opening games, but rather, a more pragmatic approach from both sets of managers.
Most of the action to happen down Tottenham’s right channel/Everton’s left
Having acquired Doherty from Wolves for a very modest £15m, the Irishman is expected to be thrown straight into the starting XI against Everton this weekend, and that adds a very fascinating subplot to this contest: Doherty versus Lucas Digne.
🚨 TEAM NEWS! 🚨
— Everton (@Everton) September 13, 2020
Spurs’ right flank was often found wanting last season as Serge Aurier largely failed to offer the required attacking verve and defensive protection needed to liberate the channel, but the acquisition of Doherty is all but guaranteed to solve that problem position for Mourinho.
The 28-year-old flourished in Nuno Espirito Santo’s system, offering a key outlet on the right to instigate attacking moves and track back when out of possession. Whether he can make the adjustment to a flat-back four is another question, but he is an undeniable upgrade on Aurier.
📋 Lloris (C), Doherty, Alderweireld, Dier, Davies, Hojbjerg, Winks, Dele, Lucas, Son, Kane
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) September 13, 2020
Digne, meanwhile, is one of the main focal points in Everton’s attack and defence. The Frenchman has the stamina and athleticism to bomb up and down the touchline for 90 minutes, while also boasting an end product to match. With two players who pack the dynamism and tenacity of Digne and Doherty, it is interesting to see who will come out on top in this particular on-field duel