29 March 2014

Liverpool v Tottenham 03.30.14

11am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
5-0 Liverpool (a) 12.14.13
3-2 Liverpool (h) 03.10.13
1-2 Tottenham (a) 11.28.12
0-0 (h) 02.06.12

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-1 Sunderland (h); 6-3 Cardiff (a); 3-0 United (a)
Tottenham: 3-2 Southampton (h); 2-2 Benfica (a); 0-1 Arsenal (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Suarez 28; Sturridge 20; Gerrard 11; Sterling 7; Skrtel 6; Coutinho, Henderson 3; Agger, Flanagan, Moses, Sakho 1
Tottenham: Adebayor 8; Soldado 6; Eriksen 5; Paulinho, Sigurðsson 4; Capoue, Chadli, Chiriches, Defoe, Dembele, Holtby, Lennon, Sandro, Townsend, Walker 1

Referee: Phil Dowd

Guess at a line-up:
Mignolet
Johnson Skrtel Sakho Flanagan
Gerrard
Henderson Coutinho
Suarez Sturridge Sterling

This won't be like Liverpool's last two matches. Tottenham will not try to defend like either Cardiff or Sunderland. There will be no five-man defense, no bus parking. I don't think Tim Sherwood knows what bus parking is.

No matter which formation Tottenham deploys, no matter Tottenham's attacking personnel, they will use the width of the pitch, and try to get at either or both of Liverpool's fullbacks. Which means that it seems a good time to revert to the 4-3-3, the formation which allowed Liverpool to hand Tottenham its own ass back in December.

Sterling has the ability to both protect Flanagan and hurt Tottenham; Henderson can similarly do a defense job when needed to shift out to the right, as it won't be Suarez or Sturridge tracking back that often. In this formation and with this XI, Liverpool could both break at pace and play incisive passes. Although, yes, they've the potential to do that in any formation. The other possible change, which was also mooted for Wednesday, would be Sakho for Agger, in theory, better in the air against Adebayor or Soldado, and on set plays. And there remains the worry about Agger's ability to play three matches in a week.

That said, Rodgers does have a tendency to stick with what's working, rotation or opposition be damned. So don't be surprised if it's an unchanged XI tomorrow for the third consecutive game, no matter how leggy Liverpool looked late in the match against Sunderland. Or, still the diamond, but with Sterling in place of Coutinho, given the former's pace and the fact that the latter played a full 90 minutes on Wednesday.

At the same time, predicting what Sherwood will do seems a fool's errand. I don't think TIm Sherwood knows what Tim Sherwood's gonna do, and that applies for more than just Tottenham's XI or tactics. Spurs do have options: in midfield and attack, even if Sherwood's hands are slightly tied in defense.

It could be 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2; we've seen both formations against "big clubs" this season, both home and away. It could be either Adebayor or Soldado up front, or both. Any two from Dembele, Bentaleb, Sandro, Paulinho could start in midfield. Eriksen, Lennon, Chadli, Townsend, and Sigurðsson are options on the flanks; Eriksen and Sigurðsson, or one of the central midfielders, can also play as the #10. There will be late fitness tests for Dembele and Adebayor, although I suspect both will be available. Michael Dawson is back from injury, and could replace Kaboul in defense. However, Walker, Capoue, Lamela, and Chiriches will remain absent.

So your guess is as good as mine, and probably as good as Tactics Tim's. That said, my shot in the dark is: Lloris; Naughton, Kaboul, Vertonghen, Rose; Bentaleb, Dembele; Lennon, Eriksen, Chadli; Adebayor.

Tottenham's responded well to adversity in both of their last two matches: Spurs scored twice in a minute (both from Chadli) to nearly get back into a Europa League tie against Benfica that looked far out of hand. Last weekend, Tottenham overhauled a two-goal deficit to beat Southampton 3-2, after looking haplessly insipid for the first 30. Unlike against Liverpool, the second goal didn't kill the match, and Christian Eriksen was the epicenter, scoring Tottenham's first two before setting up Sigurðsson's late winner. And he's almost certainly tomorrow's danger man, whether as the #10 up against Gerrard, or on the left up against Glen Johnson.

But the first two goals that Tottenham conceded a week ago aptly demonstrate how error prone they can be, often deploying a high line defense that can be ripped asunder. And Liverpool is a side that can take full advantage of those facets, as we saw when these sides last met.

Put the foot straight onto the neck, as Southampton did. But then don't let up. If you want a vision of tomorrow's ideal future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face. Forever.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"...imagine a boot stamping on a human's face. Forever." Best line of the season.