With the final round of group fixtures fast approaching in the Europa League, Everton have already secured top spot in their group while Tottenham travel to Turkey looking to unseat Besiktas and go through as winners in their pool.
However, anyone going off Ladbrokes’ latest odds for the outright winner of the competition would think the situations were reversed with Spurs a shorter price to lift the trophy than the Merseysiders, despite their trials and tribulations in the competition.
And for our money it’s Everton, rather than Tottenham, who warrant an outright bet on the winner of the continents’ other, often-forgotten, cup competition.
Cast your minds back a few months to the draw for this season’s Europa League group stage and it’s fair to say the picture looked a little different.
The Toffees had just been drawn in one of the toughest pools in the competition, with Roberto Martinez’s side facing tricky fixtures against Wolfsburg and Lille – two sides with a recent history of qualifying for the Champions League – as well as the always dreaded trip to Russia to face Krasnodar.
Spurs, meanwhile, were pitted against just one albeit difficult opponent in Besiktas as well as two teams firmly cast in the roles of also-rans – Asteris Tripolis and Partizan Belgrade.
Ask even us to put a £100 bet on one of those two teams progressing and few would have bet against the Lilywhites.
But even from the off the two teams could not have had more contrasting approaches to the competition and while one has toiled to important victories along the way, the other has dazzled with some of the best football played in the Europa League this term.
The first round of group games served up the best example of this, with Tottenham struggling to a 0-0 draw away against a poor Partizan Belgrade while Everton impressed right from the off with a barnstorming 4-1 win over full-strength Wolfsburg.
In Roberto Martinez the Toffees have a manager who embraces cup football, having helped Wigan lift an historic FA Cup in 2013 with the Latics paying the price with relegation down to the Championship.
And while Everton’s form in the league is suffering it’s clear from the atmosphere enjoyed at Goodison Park on these European nights that the fans, to some extent at least, share this ethos, having cheered the team on to that big win over Wolfsburg and a 3-0 victory over Lille.
Tottenham, in contrast, have tried to juggle both European and domestic concerns and somehow come up short in both, with the atmosphere at White Hart Lane in recent Thursday night excursions some way off the one seen on Merseyside.
Everton also have a squad ready-made for cup football, with Tim Howard previously thriving for Team USA at the World Cup and back-up stars like Aidan McGeady and Samuel Eto’o taking the opportunities given to them in the competition to come to the fore.
Even the Toffees defence seems to raise its game, with the Blues on a run of three clean sheets going into this match.
Tottenham’s rag-tag bunch of big-money imports, meanwhile, seem unable to put on a show unless it’s in the most meaningless of circumstances – see Erik Lamela’s rabona goal, the third in a 4-0 win over Asteras as an example – while others like Roberto Soldado have remained anonymous.
With Harry Kane cast as an unlikely hero, despite failing to score regularly in the top-flight, they are far from worthy of their billing as joint favourites and could come undone with a tough draw if they fail to beat Besiktas.
Instead, it’s high time we backed Everton to win – do that and Martinez may just achieve his ambition of bringing the club back to the big time with a trophy and a place in the Champions League.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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