Anfield will act as a last-chance saloon of sorts for Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday — not so much for the fight to finish fourth, or more likely fifth (which is still ongoing with Arsenal and Everton), but more because the match against Liverpool is Tottenham's last opportunity to salvage some pride in a season in which they have often been outsmarted and outdrawn by the sharpshooters above them in the Premier League.
Currently second in the division, the Reds were already in good shape when they beat Spurs 5-0 in December to record what is still their biggest winning margin of the season. Brendan Rodgers' burgeoning attack ruthlessly exposed a makeshift Spurs defence in a lacklustre display from the home side.
Then-manager Andre Villas-Boas left the following day. While his replacement Tim Sherwood has kept Tottenham in the hunt for Champions League qualification, subsequent thrashings by Manchester City and Chelsea have not helped his cause.
Spurs would do well to leave Merseyside on Sunday evening with even a point. Liverpool have been on a tear in recent months, and with a first title since 1990 still in sight, the Reds will not want to ease up now.
In the aforementioned losses, Sherwood stuck with the lone-striker, five-man midfield approach, which has been the common thread through this season's humiliating setbacks.
The defeats have resulted from complications beyond strategical failures, but Tottenham's failure to threaten in the final third could prompt a change to a two-man attack on Sunday to try and better occupy their opponents. More likely, though, Sherwood will stick with the 4-5-1/4-2-3-1 he has favoured of late, taking a cautious approach in the wake of Liverpool's 5-1 hammering of Arsenal.
Hugo Lloris will be in goal, hoping for better protection from his defence than the last time he faced Liverpool. With Kyle Walker still injured, Kyle Naughton should continue at right-back with Danny Rose on the opposite flank.
Michael Dawson is fit, and Sherwood will soon have Vlad Chiriches to call upon too (the Romanian is in Spurs' under-21 squad to play Arsenal on Friday). For the time being, though, Kaboul and Vertonghen deserve to keep their places after better displays in their last two appearances together. Messing with the defence now would not be conducive to stopping such a dangerous opponent.
The stand-in captain has spoken of Tottenham's need to be better prepared for Liverpool after the poor start in last week's 3-2 win over Southampton.
In the first half we let them have too much time on the ball and they were a threat. We have to make sure that we don’t start against Liverpool as we started against Southampton. If we do, it will be very difficult to come back again, especially at Anfield.
Despite both playing well last weekend, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Roberto Soldado could both miss out. Emmanuel Adebayor is set to return according to BBC Sport's preview, and Sherwood has typically opted to use him when available.
Sigurdsson may be a victim of Sandro coming in to shore up the Spurs midfield. As well as the presence of last week's other standout performer:
Christian Eriksen's assist and two goals should see him again as left midfielder. He and Sigurdsson showed they can work well together, but their manager may opt for a more physically inclined midfielder to try to negate and push back the likes of Joe Allen, Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson.
It will be a tall order for Nabil Bentaleb and Nacer Chadli too. However, as two of Spurs' better midfield performers of late, Sherwood will not hesitate to put them to the task. Out in right midfield, Aaron Lennon's experience might count in his favour for such a big match.
The wild North West awaits for Tottenham. It will be their last opportunity to prove they ain't yellow-bellied.
Predicted Tottenham line-up: Lloris; Naughton, Kaboul (c), Vertonghen, Rose; Lennon, Bentaleb, Sandro, Chadli, Eriksen; Adebayor.