White Hart Lane, London
September 18, 2011, 12:30 GMT
It is a fixture that has haunted the Reds in the recent past. One that promises much entertainment, and no guarantees of either side emerging a winner. A fixture that gets even the neutral fans glued from start to finish. A clash between Liverpool and Tottenham has always been one for the sports pages.
Tottenham haven’t really got off to the best of starts this season. Three points from the first three games isn’t quite the picture good old ‘Arry would have liked but nevertheless, Spurs have come out of the shadows of being underdogs over the past few seasons and can safely be considered a force to reckon with. Out of the several prerequisites needed for a game against Liverpool, Tottenham can safely tick the box marked ‘confidence’, having picked up three points at Wolverhampton last weekend. It might not look like much on the surface but looking at the way things have gone for the Lilywhites this summer, every point secured is going to be a step forward and Harry Redknapp will surely prefer climb the Premiership ladder to taking a stroll down the Thames.
Can Never Write Him Off
Liverpool on the other hand, have had a mixed run so far this season. An opening draw might have been unexpected but three consecutive victories together in the League and Carling Cup has set the wheels in motion for Dalglish’s men. However, this sprint was decelerated when Stoke City presented itself as an obstacle, which the Reds failed to overcome. A loss at Stoke should only spur the Reds further against Tottenham. Jordan Henderson and Luis Suarez came very close to equalizing at the Britannia last weekend and those very moments will be playing in their heads as they take the pitch on Sunday. A trip to White Hart Lane hasn’t really reaped rewards for Liverpool over the past few seasons but Dalglish will not be looking for any consolation this time around.
Team News & Tactical Brief
Spurs are yet to find their rhythm and sometimes it takes just one good victory to turn things around. After being battered at the hands of both Manchester clubs, Harry Redknapp welcomed the sweet smell of triumph when his side walked away winners at the Molineux stadium. A win against Liverpool this weekend will not only buoy this feeling but will also help the players rediscover their chemistry once again. With the absence of several key players, pulling this off is going to be a tough job for Redknapp.
First choice center-back Michael Dawson is out due to an Achilles injury while Brazilian international Sandro is treating a damaged knee. The list doesn’t end here for Tottenham. Ex-Real Madrid playmaker Rafael van der Vaart, Aaron Lennon and William Gallas are in a race against time to feature in the game against Liverpool in any capacity. Steven Pienaar, Tom Huddlestone and defender Ledley King are on the injury list as of now but also remain doubtful for the game against Liverpool. In all probability, any of these players, if picked, is most likely to start on the bench for the Lilywhites. But it looks like the Spurs medical room will have a starting XI of its own.
Tottenham will obviously enjoy the home advantage against Liverpool on Sunday but Harry has to work hard on the approach his team needs to take against the Reds. New additions Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor already combined with each other to help Spurs secure their first win of the season against Wolves last week. Harry shouldn’t be particularly disturbed with the club’s transfer activities this summer since Adebayor and Parker were both long term targets for him.
Tottenham play a good mix of aerial and ground passes and the presence of Adebayor upfront now gives Spurs a little more versatility than Peter Crouch did. So while Bale and Assou-Ekotto are most likely to see their crosses turning into better conversions, Modric, Parker and Defoe can help the Togolese striker by passing to his feet while he is in the box. However, the absence of Rafael van der Vaart lowers the creativity supply for the team. Modric sure is clever enough but being deployed more towards central midfield, sometimes leaves a gap upfront when there is no one at the receiving end of his pass. With VDV, this wasn’t much of a problem but his absence now means Modric will be playing further upfront while Parker takes charge in the center of the park.
The real problem for Spurs lies in its defense. The absence of key players William Gallas, Michael Dawson and Ledley King has left them wounded for the game against Liverpool. This pretty much leaves them with just Bassong and Kaboul in defense which means handling the menacing Suarez is not going to be a tough task for the duo, but also it is something they will have to for pretty much the entire game since Harry cannot really make positive substitutions in that zone unless he has either of his three currently-injured defenders back and on the bench. Expect the Spurs’ central defenders to sit deep against the Reds. Corluka and Assou-Ekotto will engage in what they do best – attack from the wings and track back while defending.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-4-2) : Friedel; Bassong, Kaboul, Corluka, Assou-Ekotto; Bale, Modric, Parker, Kranjcar; Defoe, Adebayor
Probable Starting Lineups
The Reds didn’t really go wrong in their game against Stoke. They created ample opportunities for themselves but just couldn’t strike that little bit of luck to walk away with a win. So there isn’t much to ponder over in terms of mistakes from the last encounter. On the contrary, Dalglish is most likely to instruct his men to attack the Spurs from the first whistle.
Liverpool almost has a clean sheet on the injury list. Save for Glen Johnson who is again ruled out due to a hamstring injury he suffered in the dying minutes of his return against Stoke, the rest of the players are now back in training and could play a part in Sunday’s fixture. This includes right-back Martin Kelly and club captain Steven Gerrard. Everyone awaits the return of Merseyside’s son but The King has made it clear that he will not rush Gerrard’s return until he is sure the talisman is ready.
If the Reds are to pile the pressure on Spurs, then getting the ball past the midfield and to the strikers as quickly as possible will be the best way to do so. Because if Kaboul and Bassong are handed starts, Liverpool are sure to take full advantage of this combination; and with the current form that Suarez is in, it is going to be very difficult to read him irrespective of where he is on the pitch. Interestingly, Bellamy also fits this picture. With a style and character somewhat similar to the Uruguayan, Bellamy, in all probability, could also feature but with Dalglish sticking to a 4-2-3-1 formation on road this season, chances are Bellamy will be brought on as an impact player in this game.
Expect no change in the midfield since Gerrard, if present, will start on the bench this week. While Lucas will be busy throwing himself in front of Modric, Charlie Adam is one of the key players whose performance could impact the Reds’ result. The Scotsman and Suarez are yet to develop a connection but going by the matches played so far, there are definitely sparks and it is only a matter of time before the duo appear make headlines together. Henderson will be hoping to bury his game against Stoke and a game against a side like Tottenham would suit the youngster just fine.
The Merseyside outfit is most likely to go with the same defensive quartet that came out against Stoke City. Kelly is most likely to sit this one out and unless he’s declared match fit, the Reds won’t have a cover for right-back. Currently, Skrtel is the incumbent of this position on the pitch and has impressed the gaffer but with Carragher now at the finishing end of his career, Skrtel at right-back is not something that will become the norm. Chances are Coates could come on for Carragher later on and make his Liverpool debut.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1) : Reina; Carragher, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique; Lucas, Adam; Henderson, Kuyt, Downing; Suarez
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Luka Modric (Tottenham Hotspur)
Will They Join Hands Again?
They may have done it in ugly fashion but Tottenham has managed to retain the services of Luka Modric for another season at least. Modric, who became an instant hit at White Hart Lane, now has to prove himself again in order for his stock to rise and engineer a move for himself next season after he expressed disappointment at the way he was being treated at the club.
Tottenham Hotspur 1 – 2 Liverpool FC
Away games have proven to be the Achilles heel in Liverpool’s form during past seasons but Dalglish has a chance to change that now. He has the ammunition to create chances and he has also bolstered his defense so he doesn’t fall short of names when the need arises. This Liverpool side facing Tottenham this time around is not just different in terms of new signings, but also in terms of the mentality that runs through each and every player. Spurs have always proved to be a tough side to beat, be it home or away, but the Reds might just edge this one.