There is so much at stake for both Tottenham at Liverpool when the two sides meet at White Hart Lane in the Premier League this Sunday.
Four league places, but just three points separate the Champions League chasers.
With everything to play for, it could well be a cagey encounter, with neither team looking to concede or drop points at the start of the festive run-in.
Both Andre Villas-Boas and Brendan Rodgers will be feeling the pressure a series of tactical battles will ensue on the pitch as each team look to edge the opposition.
After an inconsistent start to the season, Tottenham’s midfield three of Lewis Holtby, Paulinho and Sandro have begun working well together—their roles complimenting each other.
All three can switch between the holding midfield position to being an attacking threat, creating a fluid and dynamic Spurs midfield.
Liverpool would be wise to help guard their defence with a midfield three also, particularly away from home, and against such quality opposition.
With no Steven Gerrard, Joe Allen and Lucas will most likely be given the responsibility to marshall in front of the defence.
Keeping Sandro out of the game will be key to success for Liverpool.
To create a dynamic midfield set-up which will both keep Spurs at bay and provide creative attacks, Jordan Henderson will look to be the catalyst between Allen and Lucas and the team’s attacking players.
Liverpool excel in the front line of their team, having scored 34 goals so far this season.
Of those 34 goals, Luis Suarez accounts for 15 of them, the same amount as the whole Spurs team has put away this campaign.
Suarez is in the form of his life and Tottenham’s strong defence will inevitably target him to keep him out of the game.
Liverpool must prevent Henderson, Philippe Coutinho and, most likely, Raheem Sterling to create space for Suarez to continue the magic he has shown in recent games.
Liverpool were caught out at Newcastle Utd earlier in the season by a Yohan Cabaye strike from outside the area.
Shooting from range had become Newcastle’s speciality at that stage of the season, and Liverpool got sucked into allowing them the space to test Simon Mignolet’s ability.
Tottenham too are becoming familiar with trying their luck from outside the box.
This may suit Liverpool in that the Reds' defensive problems tend to lie with conceding from set pieces, but they must be attentive to close down Spurs’ attacks immediately, not allowing any room for manoeuvre or long-range efforts.
Both Villas-Boas and Rodgers have adopted a passing-based philosophy to their sides' tactics this season.
Long periods of possession are no longer the key focus, but accurate passing, and accurate risk-taking passing are.
According to Squawka, Liverpool just edge Tottenham in this department, with an 85 percent pass accuracy record this season, compared to Spurs’ 83 percent.
Tottenham, however, have created slightly more chances than the Reds this campaign—205 to Liverpool’s 200.
A win for Liverpool would see them stay mingling amongst the top four and starting to edge away from the likes of Tottenham, who are chasing the leading pack.
However, defeat would leave Liverpool level on points with Spurs and things would not be looking so rosy for Rodgers’ men.
Wherever the game is won or lost on Sunday, it will be a tense atmosphere—a win would do both sides a world of good.
It could even come down to experience within the team. Many Spurs players are still settling into life in the Premier League, so Liverpool may well feel they can take a psychological advantage over their opponents.