The Table Is Tight
To quote Preston, "The EPL table is tighter than a virgin." Which brings me to my Game of the Week selection. Tottenham currently sits at the 6th table position, tied with Bolton for 5th, each with 22 points. Liverpool is at the 9th position, tied for 8th with Stoke, each with 19 points. Table positions 6-12 are within 4 points of one another and the majority of the table is within 6 points.
The EPL table just can't fit anymore in the middleThere are a few other potentially table shifting games this weekend. But with Tottenham's recent success and Liverpool's resurgence, this game features two teams battling to prove themselves in a time when each is playing at a high level. Also, this is a Tottenham site. I'll try to keep this preview short and to the point. A Tottenham win could propel them to 4th on the table, a loss could bury them in mediocrity. A Liverpool win would put them in a desirable position; considering talks of relegation were going on just a month and a half ago.
What's at stake for the Spurs
Our beloved Spurs are riding high on a historical win at Emirates. The 2nd half of that game showed more of Tottenham's strength and potential than it did Arsenal's vulnerability. As Tottenham basks in the praise of pundits and "atta boys" from everywhere, they must be sure to remain focused and prepare for Liverpool. While a loss wouldn't spell the end of the Spurs season, it would negate every effort they've made to be a top team in the EPL. The team's confidence and mentality would suffer a great deal. A win on the other hand would add fuel to a raging fire. Liverpool may not be at their best this year, but symbolically and historically, Liverpool has been one of the "teams to beat" and those feelings do not die easy.
For example, Peyton Manning's Colts are not quite as good as they usually are - but an opposing defense would wear unremovable shit-eating grins if they hung a goose egg on the Colts' scoreboard. Such is the situation with Liverpool; only with a longer history.
Spurs Talk: What the Werder Bremen win tells us
Lets hope that the Spurs' offensive attack carries the momentum of last week's 2nd half heroics and Wednesday night's stomping of Werder Bremen(see Champions League Spurs win 3-0). VDV has been playing out of his mind, but sat out of the WB game, hopefully he'll be available for Saturday. Bale injured his shoulder against Arsenal on Saturday, and while there was talk of possibly limiting his time, he played until the 79th minute against WB. So hopefully Bale will be in decent shape come Saturday. Another nice thing was Modric's play. Without VDV around, Modric's abilities were put on display. Usually Modric manages the center field and VDV gets the goals and glory. Thats OK though, he's just happy hes not in Croatia anymore. A nice goal against WB will provide a nice spark of confidence for the pint-sized Croatian.
Luka Modric is quietly playing a key role for Spurs: seen here before his EPL makeover
Give him a break, Croatia just got Saturday Night Fever on VHS last yearWithout VDV, ole Harry started up in a 4-4-2 with Crouch and Pavlyuchenko heading the attack. Crouch put a goal away in the 59th minute and made some nice opportunities for the team. One of his better performances this year. Pav wasn't up to too much and Defoe came on for him early in the first half. While Defoe did not score he was quick and had to be accounted for. Hopefully, Defoe is getting loose and closer to starting form. While I am excited to have Defoe and VDV leading the Spurs' 4-5-1 formation, I don't think Liverpool is a good team to take it for a test-drive. Also, Bale's crosses seem to be magnetically drawn to Crouch. Defoe will be the best option very soon. But I don't think Harry will spoil the existing chemistry.
Roy Hodgson's team comes to White Hart Lane on the heals of an important 3-0 victory over a struggling West Ham side. While West Ham isn't a formidable opponent, Liverpool took care of business early and easily; scoring all 3 goals in the 1st half. Without Captain Steven Gerrard (out with injury), the team is playing well and seem to be maintaining with a 4-4-2, Torres and Ngog leading the attack. Torres is finally playing at the high level expected of him and Kuyt is fresh and back from injury.
The C. Ronaldo haircut isn't working out as well as Torres had hopedPerhaps one of Liverpool's biggest strengths is the serendipitous optimism the team right now. If asked a month ago, most players and pundits would have given the Reds little chance at a succesful season, but EPL parity has left the backdoor open for Liverpool. The team is pleasantly surprised that they are just 6 points out of 4th place. That opportunity must have them hungry and eager to win; and a win at White Hart Lane would bring validity to Liverpool's confidence.
Liverpool Defensive anchor Glen Johnson has his work cut out for him
With all that in mind, this loss would be easier for Liverpool to handle than Tottenham. They could walk away, understanding they lost to a superior team. Tottenham on the other hand, would be crushed; their mentality ruined.
What Will Decide The Game?
I'd like to get really technical and discuss certain match-ups here. But this game is going to come down to which defense can keep it together. The Spurs' offense is stronger and in a dangerous rhythm, but the defense always manages to give the other team chances. Liverpool is playing better than it has all year; the win against West Ham being their first 3 goal performance all year in the EPL. But they aren't great. It will be interesting to see how each side shows up with regards to Liverpool's O and Tottenham's D. Liverpool scores most of their goals in the first half, if the Spurs can keep them under control early, Bale and company will find the back of the net and ensure victory. To be fair, Liverpool was able to blank Chelsea 3 weeks back, only to have Stoke City hang 2 goals on them two weeks later.
Pav - probably not the answser to the question stated aboveThe VDV Factor
If VDV plays and is in decent health, I don't see the Spurs having any difficulty. If hes out, it will be interesting to see if Redknapp starts Defoe along side Crouch or Pav in a 4-4-2. This is only his 3rd game back so it may best to bring him on when necessary. Also, if VDV starts, it'd be interesting to see if him and Defoe have any chemistry in the 4-5-1. The Spurs will do themselves a favor if they score early. While Liverpool is no Arsenal or InterMilan - the Spurs play best when they have an aggressive attack and should approach this game with that mindset. They tend to stumble when they try to "manage" games.
I gotta go the Spurs at home 3-1. They just can't lose in this situation. Not that its impossible, but they can't afford the loss. The urge to keep the respect they've fought for should serve them well. If they win, they're riding high on EPL and Champions League success. A loss will leave them wondering how they ended up in the middle of the table.
Redknapp celebrates a money-shot