The opportunity for Tottenham Hotspur to defeat Liverpool on their own patch never materialised as the snowy heavens poured over Britain. The Reds were keen to get the game called off early – probably a genuine attempt to look after the safety of their fans – but were they scared of the proposition of a significant encounter in the quest of Champions League qualification?
Form is not a word that had been used in positive sentences this season on Merseyside and Tottenham are on a roll, firm in defence and not shy of goals. It is this form that Spurs will be hoping to maintain to ensure they are ready for the rearranged clash. The Anfield game could well be rescheduled in a couple of weeks, leaving Harry Redknapp’s side playing twice a week, several weeks in a row. Much like the festive period, playing games in quick succession can go either for or against you. If you are playing well and winning then the next game cannot come quick enough. If you get on a losing streak, then confidence can suffer.
Fixture congestion is something Tottenham know all about having gone far in the UEFA Cup and all the way in the Carling Cup in the last couple of seasons. Redknapp is hoping that this season his team will benefit from the regular games and has admitted that he is coming to a make or break part of the campaign. Successful clubs have to cope with fighting on several fronts and this is where Spurs want to be year in, year out. The next two and a half months deliver a string of games that look winnable for the team. White Hart Lane has been a happy hunting ground for Spurs this season, with 21 points taken out of a possible 30. Aston Villa’s visit is the toughest on paper and a must win match if a top four spot is to be achieved. Villa aside, the homes games with Hull, Fulham, Blackburn and Portsmouth should yield positive results, while Everton are an improving but beatable side. Away from home, the opposition are a mixed bag with the likes of Wolves and Wigan not in the same class as Manchester City. Even City should not unduly worry Redknapp as his team were far superior when they met before Christmas at the Lane.
April will be the real test that determines how close they are to realising their ambition. After a tricky away trip to the Stadium of Light to meet Sunderland, the next three games are against the teams who are almost certain to finish in the top three. Home advantage will only go so far in helping Spurs claim wins against Arsenal and Chelsea, and recent records against both are poor. They then have to travel to a ground where they have not won since 1989 – Old Trafford. The Gunners, the Blues and the Red Devils will all hope to still be in the title race by the time these matches come around and will not ease off for 90 minutes with silverware in the balance. Tottenham’s best hope of a decent return from this triple header is if the three big boys are still involved in the business end of the Champions League and struggle to manage squad rotation.
Throughout these games, the strong squad at Redknapp’s disposal will be very handy. Croatian midfielder Niko Kranjcar has even dared to suggest that Spurs have the strongest squad in the Premier League. It is an interesting claim and one that is not totally unfounded. It is probable that few Tottenham players would be certain starters at United, Chelsea or Arsenal. Many would be good squad members but the likes of Wayne Rooney, Cesc Fabregas and Didier Drogba are of the highest quality. At the same time, one can argue that the fringe players at the Lane are closer in ability to the starting players than those at the three leaders. The likes of Robbie Keane and Matt Dawson can replace Jermain Defoe and Ledley King without a massive drop in quality, yet United struggle without Nemanja Vidic and Arsenal are clearly missing Robin van Persie. Chelsea have a bit more strength in depth but with several players at the African Cup of Nations, certain frailties – a lack of quality strikers for example – are exposed.
Only eleven players can be fielded at any one time and if the top clubs can keep key players fit then it will be tough for even a team of Tottenham’s quality to challenge for the title. Fourth place and a ticket to the 2010/11 Champions League is a much safer bet and members of Spurs’ impressive squad will all have a major part to play.