Allen Hamilton

What: English Premier League
Who: Tottenham Hotspur vs Liverpool
When: Sunday 18th September, 2011, at 13:30 UK Time
Where: White Hart Lane, London, England

Recovering from a False Start

Spurs boss Harry Redknapp has been quick to point out that the summer transfer window overshadowed the club’s start to the season. But while the will-he-won’t-he saga surrounding Luka Modric’s supposed move to Chelsea dragged on and a number of players only left White Hart Lane on transfer deadline day, Spurs were still exceptionally poor in their heavy defeats at the hands of Manchester United and Manchester City.

The club’s victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers (2-0), in their last Premier League game, perhaps sets the context for Spurs’ season: Not quite good enough to challenge the very cream at the top, but still with the talent to push for that all-important fourth spot. And for this, the battle with Liverpool will be crucial. Two years ago, Spurs’ defeat of the Reds here set the tone for a season of underachievement under Rafael Benitez, and while there is little to suggest similar would occur here, victory would still be an important blow struck on top four challengers.

This is a fact of which Redknapp is well aware as he rested his stars in Spurs’ midweek Europa League draw at PAOK Salonika and stressed Liverpool remains the key game. Recent history is on Tottenham’s side, with Spurs winning the last four meetings between the two clubs at White Hart Lane. Another would do Redknapp nicely.

Well Aware of the Threat

One of the defining characteristics of Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish is his humble attitude. Arrogance never strikes the Scot and, despite pushing the Anfield side forward leaps and bounds since assuming the helm for a second time back in January, Dalglish has never lost sight of the difficult hurdle every game represents. If he had, and needed a wake-up call, following some quarters suggesting Liverpool are Premier League title contenders, a trip to Stoke City brought the club back down to earth.

Despite dominating the game at the Britannia Stadium and appearing for all intents and purposes the home side, Liverpool still lost. The question now is whether that defeat will be followed up by another at White Hart Lane, something which would do real damage to the Merseyside club’s promising league start.

And Dalglish is sure that Spurs pose a threat, and a quality one at that. "They’ve got quality throughout the team", said the Liverpool boss. "There won’t be a team in the Barclays Premier League that we’ll come up against who don’t have quality. Tottenham are the same as everyone else. Maybe they have them in different areas, but certainly [Emmanuel] Adebayor is formidable and [Jermain] Defoe is a decent player."

Recent form

Tottenham Hotspur:
Tottenham Hotspur 1-5 Manchester City (28/08; Premier League)
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur (10/09; Premier League)
PAOK Salonika 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur (15/09; Europa League)

Exeter 1-3 Liverpool (24/08; League Cup)
Liverpool 3-1 Bolton Wanderers (27/08; Premier League)
Stoke City 1-0 Liverpool (10/09; Premier League)

Key absences

Tottenham Hotspur: Michael Dawson; Rafael van der Vaart (doubt); Aaron Lennon (doubt); Steven Pienaar; William Gallas (doubt)

Liverpool: Steven Gerrard (doubt); Martin Kelly (doubt); Fabio Aurelio

Players to watch

Tottenham Hotspur – Brad Friedel: The American shot-stopper may be 40 years old, but he is showing no sign of slowing down. Snapped up by Redknapp from Aston Villa in the summer, Friedel has already claimed the number 1 spot at White Hart Lane and comes face-to-face with an old club here in the shape of Liverpool. Still amongst the best keepers in the Premier League, Friedel’s performance could be key.

Liverpool – Stewart Downing: Spurs boss Redknapp is a big admirer of Downing and has tried to sign the winger on more than one occasion. Now at Liverpool, Downing is proving to be a pleasant surprise for Reds fans who doubted whether the £20M price-tag Aston Villa demanded for the England man was justified. However, these are the games in which Downing will truly earn his corn.

Match Prediction

Tottenham have no doubt improved in recent weeks and finally look at the races. With Redknapp having rested his key men for this clash the home side are also guaranteed to be fresh and full of energy.

Liverpool meanwhile are well aware of the importance of this game, not just to avoid two defeats on the bounce, but also as Spurs are a genuine challenger for a top four spot.

All in all Spurs look like this is a game they can edge though, despite Liverpool’s undoubted revival under Dalglish. Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Liverpool.

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