Tottenham vs. Liverpool: 7 Bold Predictions for Sunday at White Hart Lane

Sean BabcockCorrespondent IISeptember 15, 2011

Tottenham vs. Liverpool: 7 Bold Predictions for Sunday at White Hart Lane

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    This Sunday in North London, the Premier League's sixth-place side, Liverpool, will hit the road and face the 15th best in the league so far: Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.

    Of course, neither of those placements on the table are necessarily indicative of either club's true ability, as they've both emerged as spectacularly inconsistent clubs with results that have made many stop and scratch their heads.

    We have yet to see any true indicator of what either of these clubs are capable of doing this year in the Premier League, and fans of both sides are already regarding this match to be the most important test they've had thus far.

    Liverpool has not won at White Hart Lane since 2008, but are hoping to change that as they climb the table and indulge their top-four dreams.

    Tottenham seeks to prove that devastating losses in the opening stages of the season were nothing to worry about, and that the talent they possess on paper will finally translate to results on the pitch.

    This match is about more than points for both Tottenham and Liverpool, and it should be an exciting match all around.

    These are my predictions for Sunday at White Hart Lane.

Old Habits Die Hard for Tottenham

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    With Rafael Van der Vaart ruled out of Tottenham's last matchup against Wolverhampton with a hamstring injury he suffered against Manchester City, Harry Redknapp had to do a bit of rearranging. So he ditched the 4-4-1-1 that Spurs often use to accommodate his particular skill set, and played Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor up front.

    The combination worked beautifully. As Wolves scrambled to cover both strikers in the box, Adebayor netted his first goal in a Tottenham kit. Defoe recorded his first of the season as well, hammering one home as Wolves seemingly forgot he was a threat and focused their attention on the towering Togolese striker instead.

    But now it seems that Van der Vaart will be back much sooner than initially anticipated, leaving fans of both sides wondering how Redknapp will fit him into the squad.

    Will he find a place for Van der Vaart in the 4-4-2?

    I somehow doubt it. Redknapp sees the Dutchman as being far too valuable. But it all depends on whether or not Redknapp sees him as being truly fit for a starting spot.

    Whether he gets the starting nod, or comes in as a second-half sub, Spurs will ditch the formation that earned them their only victory of the season at some point during the match.

Van Der Vaart Won't Play More Than One Half

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    That said, I don't see Van der Vaart playing a full 90 minutes on Sunday. I doubt he'll play more than a half.

    Surely Tottenham will be approaching this situation with a heavy degree of caution, given that initial estimates of his recovery period ranged from six weeks to two months. But now, three weeks later, the playmaker insists that he's ready to start.

    Odds are, Redknapp will put Van der Vaart in the match later on in the second half, pulling Defoe off the pitch and restructuring the tactics.

    But even if Van der Vaart starts, there are a number of reasons to expect an early substitution, ranging from the failure of the tactics typically used to accommodate him, to (god forbid) another aggravation of his injury.

    If I were Harry Redknapp, I wouldn't play him at all on Sunday, just as a cautionary measure. But with Van der Vaart already expressing mild irritation in being left off of Tottenham's Europa League squad, I'm sure Spurs would just as well prefer to avoid yet another player controversy so shortly after the Modric rift.

Andy Carroll Will Actually Perform Well

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    It's been a rough first month in EPL for Liverpool's Andy Carroll, having failed to score in four EPL appearances and failing to really make a substantial impact on Liverpool's attacking game in 2010-11.

    Some fans are already calling for Kenny Dalglish to put him on the bench long-term.

    Underperforming with Liverpool is hardly a surprise for Liverpool fans, as Carroll failed to really impress from the beginning when Anfield bought him from Newcastle in January. But that was largely attributed to Carroll's lingering knee injury, which is no longer an issue.

    Andy Carroll needs a wake up call, so don't be surprised if he is left out on Sunday. But if he does play, he certainly has the ability to take advantage of some glaring defensive weaknesses in Spurs' starting rotation.

    Carroll knows that he's on notice right now with Liverpool, and he's facing a defense that he could easily unlock to score his first EPL goal of the season.

    It seems like the perfect set of reasons for Andy Carroll to finally get it together and perform at level that's much closer to what he was expected to play at when Liverpool first bought him.

Downing V. Walker Will Be Key Battle for Liverpool, and Downing Will Win It

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    Kyle Walker played an impressive match last Saturday against Wolves, as part of a Spurs starting defensive lineup that kept the clean sheet to help Tottenham to victory.

    But the Wolves are no Liverpool, and Sunday will be a true test for the 21-year old.

    Walker will have to face off against Liverpool's newly acquired highly-experienced England International, Stewart Downing, who was a consistently effective presence on Aston Villa's squad for two seasons, but hasn't quite achieved the same pace with his new side.

    Still, Walker's minimal lack of first-team minutes with Spurs could come into play, as Liverpool hope to use the left side of the pitch as an entry point to their attack.

    Unless Walker is at the top of his game, Downing should have little trouble breaking through.

Midfield Restructuring for Spurs

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    Gareth Bale on the right wing may have worked well enough for Tottenham against Wolves, but "well enough" isn't going to cut it against Liverpool.

    With Aaron Lennon still feeling the effects of a groin strain, Spurs will likely have to fill the gap once again. But Bale surely can't vacate his post for a second week to play on his weaker side.

    So unless Lennon reaches full health by Sunday, Harry Redknapp will have to figure out who will fill in for him (or who will fill in for Bale if the horrific decision to move him to the right side is made again), where Van der Vaart will fit into the lineup, whether or not Modric is mentally "right" enough to perform in such an important match, and whether or not there's still room for Kranjcar and Parker.

    Luckily, Redknapp has a lot of options to work with.

    But the truth remains: Bale on the right was nothing but a quick fix against a lower opponent in the absence of Lennon. In order to be effective, he'll have to move back to the left, and everything is going to have be restructured all over again to make up for it.

Luis Suarez Will Tear Younes Kaboul Apart

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    What will happen if Tottenham's Younes Kaboul comes face to face with Luis Suarez on Sunday? It won't be pretty, I can tell you that.

    Kaboul has easily been Tottenham's weakest link in the back line during the opening weeks, filling in for an injured William Gallas for much of the season.

    When Ledley King returned to the lineup, the hope was that he and Michael Dawson would fill the centre-back roles, before Dawson suffered an achilles injury of his own.

    Luis Suarez has proven himself to be a very dangerous attacker for Liverpool, with creative maneuvering and footwork that gives the best defenders nightmares for weeks after facing him.

    While King might have what it takes to keep him contained, Kaboul won't always be able to rely on him to stop Suarez from moving forward. Suarez will get through, likely before Kaboul even has an opportunity to consider how to stop him.

Spurs Will Emerge Victorious

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    Both Tottenham and Liverpool will be entering this match with plenty to prove. The Spurs hope to show that they're much better than they're opening two results indicated, and Liverpool seeks their first victory at White Hart Lane since 2008 and key points to keep them above Spurs at the end of the season.

    Make no mistake about it: given the recent form of both of these sides (even with Liverpool's loss last weekend to Stoke), it will be widely considered an upset if Spurs come out on top. But I think they will.

    Against United and City, Tottenham faced some pretty troubling injury concerns with Ledley King and William Gallas both missing from their back line, and little help in the midfield to shield the defense from pressure.

    With King back in the lineup (and putting up a strong showing against Wolves last week), and Scott Parker making all the right moves in his new holding role with Tottenham, they're a very different squad from what they were in those opening weeks.

    Even as Spurs shuffled players around with some questionable restructuring last weekend (Gareth Bale on the right, for one), the difference was clear. The defense is holding up, Adebayor is finishing opportunities, and the midfield is holding possession.

    And Spurs just flat out need this more than Liverpool does, to boot.

    Tottenham is a side that looks spectacular on paper, but have lacked the cohesion required thus far to really make a splash. But that theoretical talent on paper is beginning to translate to the pitch.

    If the trend holds, it shouldn't be much of a surprise at all if Spurs come out on top.