(Reuters) - Everton can send out a message that there is more than one team on Merseyside capable of challenging at the top of the Premier League if they beat Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
Across Stanley Park, Liverpool’s flying start to the season has caught the eye but Everton‘s, under new manager Roberto Martinez, has been only marginally less impressive.
Everton are sixth, two points behind second-placed Liverpool and four off leaders Arsenal, and their one league loss was at Manchester City where they took the lead before losing 3-1.
They have coped with the sale of midfielder Marouane Fellaini to Manchester United with ease and in Romelu Lukaku, on loan from Chelsea, they boast one of the most lethal strikers in the top flight.
Martinez, who replaced Old Trafford-bound David Moyes at Goodison Park, has quickly established the eye-catching brand of passing football he ingrained at Wigan Athletic and Swansea City without sacrificing Everton’s steely core.
Tottenham are one point better off in fourth spot and Martinez believes the north London club, top-five finishers for the past four seasons, can act as a benchmark for his side.
“If we can win, I‘m sure it sends out a message,” Spaniard Martinez, who will be without injured striker Arouna Kone, told a news conference on Friday.
“But there’s also a message internally; that you gain that confidence and belief in what you are doing.”
“This Spurs side can become something special but that’s why we’re looking forward to the challenge - because we feel that we are ready to face whatever we have got in front of us at Goodison,” Martinez added.
“I do feel that the environment that is created at Goodison is as positive as you can get as a home team and we want to use that to our advantage.”
Despite losing Welsh forward Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, Martinez said the squad Andre Villas-Boas has put together at White Hart Lane is as good as any in England.
“Gareth Bale was a phenomenal player for Spurs, there’s no two ways about it,” he said.
”But when you replace that with seven or eight players, you’re going to be in a stronger position because you don’t rely on that player.
“As a top-four club, sometimes you are outstanding at something. I think Spurs are developing to be outstanding at everything.”
Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas is impressed with Martinez’s start at Everton and the impact of Lukaku who has netted five times in seven league games.
“There is a massive difference from Moyes’ aggressive-type football to Roberto’s build-up play but there is no difference to the results they are getting,” he told Tottenham’s website (www.tottenhamhotspur.com).
”The team have bonded to Roberto’s ideas...he’s a very straightforward, open-minded coach.
“Lukaku is a player of great potential, he is strong but he’s also creative on the ball. He has a big motivation to show that he belongs to the top.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond and Alison Wildey