This match could go a long way to determining who is going to finish in the top four this season. Both Tottenham, given the money they spent in the summer, and Liverpool, given their incredible start, will be looking at a Champions League spot.
Spurs will be slightly disappointed that they had to play in a Europa League match just three days before such an important match that could determine their fate come the end of the season. This definitely gives the advantage to Liverpool, as the home side have lost to West Ham and Newcastle at White Hart Lane following Europa League fixtures.
Tottenham have picked up their form since an embarrassing 6-0 thrashing away at the Etihad Stadium against Manchester City. They have drawn against Manchester United at home, while beating both Fulham and Sunderland 2-1 away from home. Andre Villas-Boas’ men currently lie in 6th position, just two points away from the top four. A victory on Sunday would take them level on points with Liverpool and would given them a good platform to build on over the Christmas period. Villas-Boas has been under pressure from a small section of Tottenham fans and some of the media, but a win on Sunday would go a huge way to silencing them.
Brendan Rodgers has guided Liverpool to 2nd place in December, which is no mean feat considering they missed out on European competition all together last season. Many may have seen this as a positive, considering the effect the Europa League has had on Tottenham’s season. Luis Suarez has been exceptional so far this season since returning from his ban, and keeping the Uruguayan could be the catalyst for a return to the Champions League. There is no doubt that the Reds will have to finish in the top four to ensure Suarez doesn’t leave next summer. They have only lost one of their last five matches, but that loss came away at Hull. Liverpool were poor that day and they will need to improve this weekend if they are to pick up points at White Hart Lane.
Last season’s fixture ended in a 2-1 victory for Tottenham. Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale scored for the home side, while the Welshman also scored in his own net. Meanwhile, in the reverse fixture, Liverpool ran out 3-2 winners with Suarez, Stewart Downing and Steven Gerrard scoring for the Reds, while Jan Vertonghen netted twice for Spurs. There is unlikely to be many goals this week with neither team wanting to give anything away too easily.
Spurs are one of the only two sides not to score more than two goals in any league match this season. The other is Newcastle. This highlights the trouble that they are having killing matches off which will boost Liverpool going into this match.
Luis Suarez has scored 41 goals in his last 46 appearances for Liverpool. Fortunately for Spurs, he has only scored 3 goals in 5 away league matches this season, compared to 12 goals in 5 home matches.
Sandro has come back from injury in great form. He will be crucial for Spurs in nullifying the threat of Suarez, who will try to find pockets of space around the penalty area. Sandro will need to prevent Suarez getting too much time and space in the Spurs final third or the Uruguayan could do some serious damage. The Brazilian is an effective tackler, winning 85.71% of his 14 tackles so far this season with one successful last man tackle. He has also been very good at stopping opposition attacks with 24 interceptions. The holding midfielder has won 46% of his ground and aerial 50-50s. If Sandro plays well and dominates the midfield area, it will give Tottenham a great platform to push on and grab a vital three points.
Suarez is without doubt the best player in the Premier League at the moment. He could potentially reach 20 goals before the new year, which would be an incredible achievement. He is on 15 goals and after missing the first five games, that really is amazing. The Uruguayan has a shooting accuracy of 61% and a chance conversion rate of 29%. Liverpool will be without both Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge on Sunday, so Suarez’s role becomes even more important. It could become very easy for the Reds to fall down the table without two of their best players, and it will be down to the former Ajax striker to prevent that from happening. Liverpool’s top four chances rely heavily on Suarez and it’s in matches like this that he has to step up and make the difference.
Danny Rose and Christian Eriksen returned against Anzhi in the Europa League on Thursday, so they could be in the reckoning to start on Sunday. Younes Kaboul, Vlad Chiriches, Jan Vertonghen, Emmanuel Adebayor and Harry Kane are all likely to miss the match. Etienne Capoue could continue at centre-back in the absence of Chiriches, Kaboul and Vertonghen.
Gerrard has a hamstring injury and is expected to miss the entire Christmas period. Jordan Henderson is close to a return but he remains a doubt for this match. Daniel Agger is also a doubt with illness. Daniel Sturridge is on the long term injury list and could be out until the end of January along with Jose Enrique who isn’t expected to return until February. Philippe Coutinho and Joe Allen will become more important for the Reds in the coming weeks in Gerrard’s absence.
It’s going to be a great game between two sides competing for Champions League football. The match is more important for the home side who need to beat one of the league’s top sides soon after failing to beat Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Everton. A win on Sunday would be a huge boost for Villas-Boas and it would give real impetus to the side’s Champions League push. Liverpool will miss Sturridge and Gerrard, but Suarez is in top form and I expect him to score. Home advantage could carry Tottenham through.