March 3, 2017 / 2:42 PM / 6 months ago

Midfield the key for Everton's Koeman to unlock Spurs

Britain Football Soccer - Everton v Sunderland - Premier League - Goodison Park - 25/2/17 Everton manager Ronald Koeman Reuters / Andrew Yates Livepic

(Reuters) - Everton manager Ronald Koeman says his team must win the midfield battle and keep the likes of Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli quiet to stand any chance of an away win at Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League on Sunday.

Koeman acknowledged similarities between second-placed Tottenham and seventh-placed Everton and said both sides had improved since they played out a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park at the start of the season.

"It will be a battle, and the key is to win that midfield battle," the Dutchman told a news conference on Friday. "They try to do high pressing, and we like to.

"They have individual players who are very good between the lines like Eriksen and Alli, offensive full backs. We have that too.

"Every game is a test, and the test this Sunday is not more than it was on the first day of the season. We got a point then, and Everton is stronger now than it was then. But also Tottenham is stronger."

Tottenham crushed Stoke 4-0 in their last game, leading losing manager Mark Hughes to declare them the best attacking team in the league, but Koeman said his side would not play to Spurs' strengths the same way Stoke did.

"It's an easy answer if you lose 4-0," Koeman added. "But I saw the game, and we will defend different than they did.

"Stoke had two really big chances in the first half to score a goal, but you need to stop the strengths of Tottenham. You need to stop Eriksen, Alli, the other midfield players. Maybe they play with three at the back, four, a lot of questions.

"But they will have questions about Everton also."

Koeman and Spurs' manager Mauricio Pochettino are among the bookmakers' favourites to take over at Barcelona when Luis Enrique leaves at the end of the season, but the Dutchman would not be drawn on his future.

"Every word from my side about Barcelona is too much. I don't speak about Barcelona," he said.

"I was Southampton manager after Pochettino. I think he is doing a good job at Tottenham, but I don't like the questions about how he is doing or what he will do.

"I think he is managing a big club. He's happy, I will ask him on Sunday if he likes to move to Barcelona."

Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; editing by Andrew Roche

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