STRAIGHT TALK: By STEVE MCMAHON
THERE is no doubt that Tottenham Hotspur are in fine form after their 2-1 win over Arsenal last week, a victory which propelled them to third place in the Premier League, but this weekend’s trip to play Liverpool may prove a tougher test than the north London derby.
For one, Brendan Rodgers is finding the right formula in front of goal for Liverpool with nine goals scored in their last two games against Swansea and Wigan, and they will be further boosted in front in the final third with Daniel Sturridge set to return from injury.
On top of that, Spurs won’t be helped by the fact that they had to travel to Inter Milan on Thursday and will have the second leg of that Europa League tie to contend with next week as well.
The Inter matches will certainly have an impact on and how Andre Villas-Boas balances the fitness of his players and the need to win games, which may be a good thing in the long run. Look at it this way – if Spurs are going to be playing Champions League football next season, this week’s games will be as good a test for them as it comes.
That said, it won’t be surprising if this Sunday’s match is an open affair with two young, up-and-coming managers and two goal scorers in hot form fighting it out.
Both Rodgers and Villas-Boas have done well in their first seasons at their respective clubs, establishing sides that play good, open football while also juggling high expectations.
Villas-Boas has made Tottenham a tight, well-organised side and, as mentioned last week, he has been terrific in terms of integrating the players into the system he wants the team to play.
Gareth Bale’s name is bound to come up when talking about Spurs, and he will definitely trouble the Liverpool defence because of his tremendous pace, something which has already helped him score 13 goals in the last 11 games for Spurs.
However, I don’t think Bale’s excellent form will be able to gift Tottenham a win at Anfield – Liverpool’s home advantage, combined with Spurs’ intense schedule, will have a sufficient influence on the game to tilt the balance in the Reds’ favour.
We should also keep in mind that Rodgers has improved his team by leaps and bounds this season. Yes, Liverpool were taking two steps backwards for every step forward earlier this season, but a look at their recent results will suggest that they are starting to look like a team capable of winning games.
No matter what the result is, both teams will want a win to boost their league position with the other top teams playing in the FA Cup this weekend.
A win can put Tottenham within two points of Manchester City and an automatic Champions League spot, while three points for Liverpool will see them leapfrog Merseyside rivals Everton into sixth spot – an encouraging feat given their stuttering start to the season.
- Catch former Liverpool midfielder Steve McMahon on FOX SPORTS’ coverage of the Premier League, and on The Verdict every Monday at 8.30pm
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