10am. Available in the US live on Setanta Xtra (Directv only). Delayed on Setanta Sports at 12pm.
Liverpool: 6th place; 34 points out of 20 games
Tottenham: 7th place; 31 points out of 20 games
Last 4 meetings:
3-0 Liverpool (h) 09.23.06
1-0 Liverpool (h) 01.14.06
0-0 (a) 09.10.05
2-2 (h) 04.16.05
Last 3 games:
Liverpool: 0-1 Blackburn (a); 2-0 Watford (h); 3-0 Charlton (a)
Tottenham: 2-1 Villa (h); 1-3 Newcastle (a); 1-0 Southend (h)
Goalscorers (league; more than one goal):
Liverpool: Kuyt 6; Bellamy 5; Alonso, Gerrard 3; Crouch, Garcia, Gonzalez 2
Tottenham: Defoe 6; Berbatov 5; Keane, Lennon, Murphy 2
Referee: Mark Halsey
Guess at a squad:
Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Riise
Pennant, Gerrard, Alonso, Garcia
There are two ways this could go following the result from Tuesday. Liverpool could fall back into old habits away from home and struggle for a result, or they could come out looking to put the midweek far behind them, play as they did at Wigan or Charlton, and go for the jugular. Obviously, I’m hoping it’s the latter.
Please, no 3-5-2 this time out. It’s worked well before, and I do believe both Riise and Finnan are well suited to the wingback roles, but it was somewhat baffling to see Liverpool deploy the formation at Blackburn after finding their form in a 4-4-2 and using it to good success. It’s why I’ve gone for both Pennant and Garcia on the wings; Pennant because he’s played better of late and his crosses are needed, Garcia because although he frequently frustrates away from home, he’s a match winner who scores big goals, and Liverpool certainly needs that right now.
I said my piece on Crouchy in the Blackburn review. I’m not of the opinion that Crouch isn’t good enough; on the contrary, he was a key part of last season’s successes and brings a lot to the team, but it wasn’t coming off midweek, and Liverpool’s front line will need to be firing on all cylinders. Kuyt hasn’t played as well away from home, but he’s looked the handier of the two recently by a country mile.
The defense will have to be at its best. Both Defoe and Berbatov are breaking into stride, as evidenced by Tottenham’s rise up the table and recent goal output. Spurs have played good, attacking soccer, especially at White Hart Lane, and Liverpool will have to be aware. Agger’s included for his pace, and while Tottenham’s had troubles getting the ball wide with Lennon out (both Malbranque and Ghaly are wingers who want to cut inside), I’ve left Aurelio out because it still seems to early in his PL career to start him in a game like this.
This match will be more important than usual for determining the places at the end of the season, more important than a match in late December usually is. If Tottenham can pick up a victory, a 4 horse race for 3rd and 4th position becomes a 5 horse race. Due to Spurs’ excellent form throughout December they now sit only 3 points back of Liverpool and 5 points back of 3rd, after everyone was tempted to write them off in October. If Liverpool wins, not only will the tough away victory boost confidence, it will open up a 6-point gap between the teams.
Liverpool’s use of the chances they get in front of goal will decide this game. As said, White Hart Lane has become a difficult place to play; Liverpool won’t get 20-odd shots as they did at Blackburn. If they can put their chances away, there’s an excellent opportunity to get all three points. Not to mention that a goal usually leads to one or two more in reasonably quick succession. However, if the recurring wastefulness continues, Tottenham is more than capable of making Liverpool pay.