Club Focus – Tottenham – Little to fear from Liverpool

Who knew Boaz Myhill was this good? He did not come across as a World Class goalkeeper when conceding five to Tottenham in August but seemed to be just that on Saturday at White Hart Lane.

In the Spurs goal, Gomes had been doing rather well himself of late. The clean sheet against Hull was the fifth straight in the league and the sixth in all competitions – a club record. A seventh clean sheet is achievable on Wednesday in the rearranged match with Liverpool, a task made easier by the absence of their two main threats, Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard. The Reds come in to the game having ended each 90 minutes they have played in 2010 at 1-1, with the home FA Cup replay with Reading finishing as a 2-1 defeat after extra time. A score draw would not be a bad result for Harry Redknapp’s side but he will be keen to pick up a win having failed to take advantage of a poor weekend for their rivals for a 2010/11 Champions League spot.

With little football played this year because of the snow, Spurs will have had plenty of free time to study Liverpool’s recent performances. No doubt the Reds will have been heavily scouted anyway, but with both Reading ties and the weekend fixture with Stoke having been live on the television, there is little excuse for not knowing the ins and outs of Rafa Benitez’s side’s problems. It is likely Benitez will go with a more adventurous line-up at home than he did at the Britannia Stadium, when he fielded two full-backs on the wings. Greek defender Sotiris Kyrgiakos looked to have stabilised the defence against the Potters but – as was proved by Stoke late on – there always seems to be a way to break down Liverpool at the moment.

With Robbie Keane drawing another blank at the weekend, it would make sense to bring back Peter Crouch against his old side. The added incentive to get one over a former employee will be a nice bonus, but his height will be a highly useful facet. The idea is not about bombarding Liverpool with high balls from the back, something that is not really Crouch’s strength despite his size. Instead it is at set pieces that Crouch’s added inches could pay dividends. The matches with Reading highlighted a real issue that the Reds have with defending deep balls to the back post at corners and free-kicks. Looking for Crouch in this area from dead balls could unsettle them, allowing the likes of Jermain Defoe and Michael Dawson to feed on the loose balls. The Royals used this tactic to good success at Madejski Stadium with lanky target man Grzegorz Rasiak highlighting the problems Crouch could cause. Crouch’s agile limbs are of course capable of working magic in a packed penalty box should the ball drop at his feet.

The other area where Redknapp might look to dominate is the centre of the park. A Reading midfield who struggle to compete in the Championship were able to get in and around the Liverpool midfield and Stoke were similarly physical in dealing with them. Benitez seems unsure of his best combination, particularly whether to trust expensive Italian Alberto Aquilani. Javier Mascherano is just coming back from a period of injury and suspension and Wilson Palacios will look to make his mark early on. If he does so, then Spurs can dominate the match and Benitez does not have the creative options that Redknapp possesses to change a game should his team fall behind.

There is still a lot of football to be played this season and so it would be wrong to believe the trip to Anfield is a make or break game. It is still an excellent chance to take points off of a rival side and defeat for the Reds would probably be a bigger blow than a defeat for Spurs. Tottenham’s form has been strong enough for any defeat to be swiftly written off as a blip. The performance against Hull was not as disappointing despite the result, and on a different day against a different keeper, then three points would have been easily taken. Chances will come against Liverpool. Set pieces will definitely play a part but Spurs have far superior talents in possession of the ball than Reading and Stoke who still created more than the Reds did. A positive statement in picking up a win would be a great impetus ahead of a winnable set of games for the Lilywhites. There are enough reasons for Spurs to believe they will achieve it.

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