10am EST, live in the US on FSC
Last 4 head-to-head:
1-0 Liverpool (a) 12.30.06
3-0 Liverpool (h) 09.23.06
1-0 Liverpool (h) 01.14.06
0-0 (a) 09.10.05
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 0-1 Marseille (h); 1-0 Wigan (a); 4-2 Reading (a)
Spurs: 1-1 Famagusta (a); 4-4 Villa (h); 2-0 Boro (h)
Liverpool: Torres 3; Alonso, Voronin 2; Babel, Benayoun, Gerrard, Sissoko 1
Spurs: Bale, Berbatov, Kaboul, Keane, Malbranque 2; Bent, Chimbona, Gardner, Jenas 1
Referee: Mark Halsey
Guess at a squad:
Finnan Carragher Hyypia Riise
Pennant Gerrard Mascherano Babel
Is this Liverpool’s best XI at the moment? There are arguments over both spots on the left flank, but otherwise, I reckon it is.
I’m not sure “best XI” is a relevant question for the modern Premiership, but it’s still a lot easier to pick one for United, Chelsea, and Arsenal than it is at Liverpool. That I set up these previews by trying to guess a squad, that there’s a site called “Fantasy Rafa” this season with something like 1500+ participants, and that seemingly no one can agree on a best team are topics that can’t be avoided as much when Liverpool’s struggling.
I still believe that rotation, which is a vastly overused scapegoat to begin with, works wonders in the fitness department. But those benefits are clearly being outweighed at the moment, and the injuries aren’t helping.
I guess I was blinded by Sissoko’s performances against Sunderland and Derby, but I think we can safely rule out any Gerrard/Sissoko combinations for the foreseeable future. I hope. Mascherano’s going to have to be the one that sits deep and links the play, which was Alonso’s forte, for the next few weeks. I had hoped that Sissoko would be able to combine with Gerrard, but every time the two have played in the middle, it’s been Momo that’s played further forward with Gerrard mopping up, and that simply doesn’t work.
Liverpool may not be there yet, but it might be time to think about playing either Benayoun or Lucas in central midfield. It’s most likely too soon for Lucas, as it was for Leto on Wednesday, but both of those players look able to play a pass in midfield without resorting to the long ball, which is something the team has dearly missed in Alonso’s absence. With Liverpool’s ability to keep possession (usually) and their talent from top to bottom, the team shouldn’t need a holding midfielder every time out, no matter how Benitez prefers to set up his teams.
I didn't think Babel was injured, but there’s no other explanation why he hasn’t started in the past three games, and only made the bench last time out. If he’s fit here, I hope he plays; probably either he or Benayoun will start, with the other coming off the bench if a spark is needed.
That Riise’s healthy may mean he could start in left midfield as well, but with Bale and Chimbonda likely to line up as full-backs, there will be space to exploit, as both push forward at every opportunity. Playing both Babel and Pennant will give Liverpool the best chance to exploit this space, especially on the counter-attack, and the fact that they’ve gotten more comfortable switching flanks when needed will be even more an advantage. Plus, Riise did score from LB last year against Spurs at Anfield (on the counter-attack).
That Spurs fans are more tortured than Liverpool’s at the moment is small consolation. The trendy pick for fourth prior to the season (including by yours truly) currently sits in 18th place with 6 points from 8 games. They’ve been better in their last few games, with manager Martin Jol under obvious pressure, most recently fighting back to earn a 1-1 draw in Greece (winning 7-2 on aggregate), and coming back from 3 goals down to beat a Villa team that thought they’d had it won before an hour was off the clock.
We know Spurs have goals in them. That’s rarely been the problem at White Hart Lane (incidentally, Spurs are also the only team that would buy Bent for £16.5m with Keane, Berbatov, and Defoe on the books). I’m knocking on wood furiously as I type this, but Tottenham’s not a bad team to come up against when the goals aren’t coming.
Results have gone Liverpool’s way the last three times the two teams have met, but I clearly remember Spurs being one of those teams that Liverpool always drew against the couple of years prior. Even the 3-0 win last season saw the game at 0-0 after an hour, with Jenas missing a sitter right before Liverpool got their first goal.
Spurs aren’t going to continue to struggle as they have over the first two months. We know that they have good players up and down the roster. Liverpool will need an early goal to settle both the team and the crowd after the last couple of performances. All in all, Liverpool needs a good performance to get the team back on track.
Just win. Please.