Tottenham vs. Liverpool: Predictions, Preview and Key Battles

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Tottenham vs. Liverpool: Predictions, Preview and Key Battles
Julian Finney/Getty Images
Michael Dawson and Tottenham Hotspur face an in-form Luis Suarez on Sunday.

In a crucial game that could see them draw level with Liverpool on 30 points, Tottenham Hotspur host Brendan Rodgers' side on Sunday.

Historically, this has been an exciting fixture, with Spurs winning the last six encounters at White Hart Lane.

Tottenham Hostpur vs. Liverpool, White Hart Lane
Date Kick-Off Time (GMT) Live TV Coverage/Stream Highlights
Sunday December 15, 2013 16:00 Sky Sports 1/NBC Sports Sports Network BBC One, 22:25 GMT

Sky Sports/NBC/BBC

In recent weeks, Spurs have rebounded from a slump that saw them thumped 6-0 by Manchester City and lose at home to Newcastle. Andre Villas-Boas' side have won their last two games, as well as grinding out a 2-2 draw against Manchester United at White Hart Lane.

Liverpool have often been imperious at home this year, but their away form has been questionable at times. The Merseyside team haven't won away from Anfield since September and their most recent trip saw them beaten 3-1 by Hull.

That should stack the odds in favour of the London club, but that loss to Hull then saw Liverpool rebound and score nine goals in the following two games. Luis Suarez is in ridiculous form right now, so Spurs will need to shut him down first of all.

Suarez has six goals in his last two games, but an injury to Steven Gerrard against West Ham has ruled him out for this game, and Liverpool will miss his delivery and command from midfield. It will be a useful gauge for Rodgers as to how prepared he is for his captain's retirement.

In addition to the loss of Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge is likely to remain absent for the Reds. Suarez could find himself isolated, with Philippe Coutinho unlikely to sit back and thread the ball through.

For their part, Spurs will face a choice between Roberto Soldado and Jermain Defoe. Soldado registered his first hat-trick for his new side in the 4-1 victory over Anzhi Makhachkala in midweek, while Defoe has started the last two league games.

With the gap between second and seventh place just four points, this is a crucial match for both sides' top-four ambitions. 

 

Key Battles

Michael Dawson vs. Luis Suarez

With Suarez in ominous form, Spurs should look to give Michael Dawson some protection. If the Uruguayan is allowed the space to run at Dawson, the defender could be in for a very long day.

Spurs have the options in midfield to stifle the Liverpool attack, and players such as Sandro offer an excellent defensive balance. If Suarez is to be contained, Villas-Boas will have to cut off his service and frustrate him.

Playing a high defensive line isn't going to work against pacy players such as Suarez, so Dawson will need to marshal his midfield into shape and ensure that they frustrate Suarez by forcing him to play deeper in an attempt to make something happen.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Even with Steven Gerrard absent, Philippe Coutinho's passing remains a threat.

 

Sandro vs. Philippe Coutinho

While Suarez is the obvious threat, Coutinho is another player who will need to be isolated if Spurs are to control the game and collect their now-standard home victory over Liverpool.

Again, it will be Sandro who has a say in the matter. He is well aware of the danger that his countryman presents and spoke to Darren Lewis of The Mirror about Coutinho's ability:

With the ball, Coutinho’s passes are like Ronaldinho’s. His passes are good, man. He doesn’t move a lot. But his passing! You think he is going to pass here and he passes there instead.

It will be me or Etienne Capoue who will try to stop Coutinho. For me, I don’t think a lot before the game. Just when I am there, I want to stop him, stop his freedom.

If midfielders have freedom they can do something to hurt you. I want to be close to him. And tackle him.

 

Prediction

While it's difficult to bet against Liverpool with Suarez in this sort of form, Spurs will take comfort from their history in this fixture, as well as their opponents' patchy away form.

Without Gerrard, Spurs will fancy their chances to dominate the midfield and cut off the supply to Suarez. Of their last six home encounters with Liverpool, Spurs have won four of them 2-1, which is a good bet again on Sunday.

Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Liverpool

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