Liverpool vs Tottenham, 18:00
The three way race for the title has meant that Liverpool is fighting for survival in financial and real terms. Their off field money issues with the American owners and the lack of finances makes Liverpool’s situation precarious.
Tottenham have been making steady progress over the Christmas period winning 3 in 3, but when Spurs play the big four they tend to falter.
Spurs beat Liverpool last time at home and look to do a double over Rafa Benitez. The return of Luka Modric will bring added dynamism to the Spurs midfield.
Liverpool has restored some sense of normality with a recent win against Aston Villa but was held in the cup against Reading.
Fernando Torres is still injured and playing through the pain with his ankle injury, Gerard is not back to his usual and the issue of support is still there.
Yossi Benayoun has been Liverpool’s most effective player, leading the attack from the center, but he has been used as a sub or for 50 minutes or so.
Yossi has had the non kosher placenta treatment from the Serbian doctor in Belgrade but as still struggles to play 90 minutes.
Ryan Babel is another underused gem; he has pace, skill and is unselfish, but is rarely used. The best Liverpool team has to accommodate Torres, Gerrard, Kuyt, Babel, Benayoun, with Mascherano holding the middle.
Rafa Benitez is too conservative to entertain such a thought.
Spurs has talent in the middle, the loss of Aaron Lennon is not going to affect them as much. Nico Krankjar has been a great addition to the Croatian contingent with Corluka and Modric.
Jermaine Defoe is relentless at the moment and is contending for top scorer, he will be looking to attack Agger for pace and get close on Carragher’s shoulder.
Peter Crouch will want to prove himself against is former club, he is always a handful.
He is tall wiry but devastatingly skilful in patches, the tall-man/short-man combination works well for Spurs. Wilson Palacios is the anchor of the Spurs team and holds them together; he must stop Gerard and Mascherano from dominating.
Liverpool needs to pin Spurs back with wide play but their instinct is to go down the middle. Glenn Johnson normally provides that width on the right but Ryan Babel can balance the left. Johnson is better at right-mid than right-back because he prefers to attack than defend.
Liverpool has kept form at home to keep the fans on their side, it is crucial that they will this to keep their champions league ambitions alive.
If Spurs win then they have broken a major mental hurdle in their quest for a top 4 position.
One can see a draw here, even 0-0 because Benitez will not be cavalier and try to win. Spurs will have to use their wings to bypass the Liverpool core in the middle.
Liverpool will have to dominate the middle and get their passing game going, but Spurs will need two grafters to counter the Liverpool machine.