After a couple of good home wins, Liverpool begin a tough run of matches over Christmas with today’s fixture against Tottenham at White Hart Lane. Unfavourable results from the top sides already this weekend has meant that we have slipped out of the top four with Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton all leapfrogging us in what is a very congested table. Spurs lie three points behind us in seventh and today’s fixture is surely a critical one in the battle for a Champions League place.
Historically, this is not a good fixture for Liverpool and Spurs usually comfortably take three points from us in this fixture. However, this season has been a bit disappointing for the North London club. After making a whole host of signings following Gareth Bale’s departure, manager Andre Villas-Boas has struggled to find his first team with new players finding it difficult to settle. They still have a good points tally, though Tottenham’s home form has been quite inconsistent. Only Aston Villa in the league have scored fewer home goals and Spurs’ total goal tally is the same as our prolific marksman, Luis Suarez’s, individual goal tally. Having said that, Liverpool’s away form has been weak with us recently struggling against both Hull City and Everton, our defence certainly being quite shaky. New striker Robert Soldado’s hat-trick on Thursday in the UEFA cup fixture against Anzhi surely bodes well for the home side and they are unbeaten in the last five games in all competitions.
The next four fixtures, I feel, will be a true test of Liverpool’s mettle in terms of where they will end the season. Will we get the targeted top four finish and is there an outside chance of becoming champions? I think if we can get 9 points from 12 then both of these possibilities are realistic. It will not be easy, however, and unfortunately we have been hit by another critical injury. The loss of Daniel Sturridge has been offset by the truly outstanding form of his strike partner, Luis Suarez. However, last week’s win against West Ham came with a price. Steven Gerrard has been hit by a hamstring strain which will keep him out until January, making this tough string of games ever more difficult. Our captain has played every match up until this point and he has been on the top of his game, providing a high assist tally and delivering some amazing set pieces. Without Gerrard, will Suarez be able to function properly? Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen are likely to fill in for him in the centre of the park, but both are far more defensively minded and looking at the potential team list it is tricky identifying who will be supplying our attack with the necessary incisive passes in the final third of the pitch. We really need Philippe Coutinho to step up and deliver and Jordan Henderson will also have a key role to play. Raheem Sterling played well against the Hammers and is likely to retain his place.
Tottenham are not exempt from injuries themselves and probably the most significant loss to their squad is the missing defender Jan Vertonghen who has an ankle injury. When facing one of the world’s best strikers it helps to have your first choice defence intact. Danny Rose and Reds summer target Christian Eriksen both face fitness tests ahead of the game. For Liverpool Daniel Agger has returned from illness though whether he will feature will be a decision for Brendan Rodgers who might favour either Kolo Toure or Mamadou Sakho to accompany the stalwart Martin Skrtel.
This game should be a tough battle for both sides and could be a high-scoring event. It has the highest tally of own goals in Premiership history (nine). History favours Tottenham though I’d like to think that Liverpool have significantly improved this season. The lack of leadership could be a telling factor and supply for the attack could be an issue. Luis Suarez is likely to wear the captain’s armband and this should further enhance his star role. Let’s hope that three points here will send us into Christmas with a clear message to the other teams fighting for a top four finish.
The match kicks off at 4pm and will be shown live on Sky Sports.