Luka Modric of Tottenham Hotspur controls the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane. Tottenham play Liverpool on February 6, 2012. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Tottenham travel to Liverpool in a fixture with implications for the title and fourth place
Tottenham travel to Anfield in a fixture that is crucial in both the title race and the race for the 4 Champions League places. With Manchester United dropping points against Chelsea and Manchester City yet to get Yaya and Kolo Toure back from the African Cup of Nations, Spurs could make things interesting by beating Liverpool. Spurs have a crucial run of fixtures in the Premier League this month, with Manchester United at home and Arsenal away, and could do with getting 3 points at Anfield to solidify their already very strong claim on 3rd place, and to put pressure on the two Manchester teams at the top. Beating Liverpool, though, will be no easy feat.
After losing rather pathetically to Bolton, Liverpool have beaten Manchester City in the Carling Cup and Manchester United in the FA Cup, while winning in the league at Wolves 3-0. They're on a good, confidence boosting run of form, and, to make things better, have Luis Suarez available for the first time since his suspension for racist remarks made to Patrice Evra, though there is suggestion that he might not start. Spurs, of course, beat 9-man Liverpool 4-0 back in September, but that sort of thrashing is unlikely to occur on Monday. For one thing, Liverpool haven't lost at home this season, although they have drawn 7 times. Secondly, Tottenham could be without Rafael van der Vaart, Jermain Defoe, Aaron Lennon, and Ledley King. Or, in other words, a quarter of their usual starting XI. With Spurs depth beyond their first XI having been so rarely tested this season, Monday's match may be their biggest test yet.
The key battles will be in the midfield. Despite likely missing Rafael van der Vaart, Luka Modric and Scott Parker can create enough chances, especially if Liverpool continue to play Steven Gerrard and Charlie Adam together in the midfield. Sometimes, playing two similar players together pays off in a mutual understanding, but with both Gerrard and Adam being positionally indisciplined, space should open up through the middle for Parker, Modric and Gareth Bale, who's taken up an increasingly central role in Tottenham's team, to exploit. Jake Livermore should give Tottenahm the platform to roam behind Adam and Gerrard. With Ledley King likely out, Liverpool may use Craig Bellamy and Andy Carroll down the middle, as they did against Manchester United. Carroll has improved in recent weeks, assisting for Dirk Kuyt against United and scoring against Wolves. If Carroll and Bellamy can form an effective partnership, Spurs could be troubled by long balls for Carroll.
Liverpool vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Game Date/Time: Monday, February 6, 3:00 p.m. ET, 8:00 p.m. local
Venue: Anfield, Liverpool, England
TV: ESPN2 (USA), TSN2 (Canada), Sky Sports 1 (UK)
Liverpool (4-2-3-1): Reina; Enrique, Agger, Skrtel, Kelly; Adam, Gerrard; Downing, Bellamy, Henderson; Carroll
Tottenham (4-3-2-1): Friedel; Assou-Ekotto, Kaboul, Dawson, Walker; Livermore, Parker, Modric; Bale, Kranjcar; Adebayor