Liverpool FC: Predicting the Line-Ups for the Visit to Spurs and Keys to Victory

David Hendrick@@DaveHendrickTLWContributor IIISeptember 18, 2011

Liverpool FC: Predicting the Line-Ups for the Visit to Spurs and Keys to Victory

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    Liverpool head to White Hart Lane on Sunday coming off a disappointing result away to Stoke. That 1-0 defeat was Liverpool's first loss of the season.

    As those who watched the game will be aware, that scoreline was not a true reflection of the game. Liverpool dominated the game and were victims of a couple of very poor refereeing decisions which caused Kenny Dalglish to speak out in a post-match interview.

    Their hosts will be in high spirits after recording their first win of the season away to Wolves, a game which saw debutants Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor both impress following their recent moves.

    Adebayor helped himself to a debut goal, while Parker solidified the Spurs midfield and added a drive that has been missing this season following Sandro's injury.

    This is an important match for both teams, as they will both have aspirations of a Top 4 finish and a place in next season's Champions League. Both teams come into this game with a couple of injury concerns, and neither are going to be at full strength.

    Here are my predictions for the line-ups and my keys to victory for both Tottenham and Liverpool, starting with the home team.

Goalkeeper: Brad Friedel

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    The ageless Brad Friedel will no doubt continue in goal for Spurs having kept his first clean sheet for his new club last week.

    The signing of Friedel in the summer transfer window was a great piece of business for Spurs, who were desperately in need of a reliable goalkeeper following several calamities from Heurelho Gomes last season.

    Friedel will be looking to impress against the team he turned down in the summer and will want to show that he made the right decision in going to North London.

Right Back: Kyle Walker

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    Kyle Walker seems to be establishing himself as Tottenham's first choice rightback this season after an impressive spell on loan with Aston Villa last term. \Personally I think he's Tottenham's third best right back but Kyle Naughton has been sent on loan to Norwich and Vedran Corluka seems to out of favour, so Walker has done well to capitalize on that chance.

    He's an attack-minded fullback and will be looking to keep Stewart Downing on the back foot and get himself involved in Spurs' attacks.

Left Back: Benoit Assou-Ekotto

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    This is a no-brainer, Assou-Ekotto will start at left back for Spurs. He's probably the first name on the team sheet each week, mainly because he's the only leftback Spurs have at the club and thus the only option to play this position, regardless of form.

    Assou-Ekotto scored against Liverpool in this fixture two seasons ago, and I'm sure he would love a repeat of that.

Central Defender: Ledley King

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    King was rested in mid-week so it's likely that he will start on Sunday. A huge player for Spurs and would likely be a huge player for England if not for the injuries that have plagued his career.

    King is a great leader, a fantastic reader of the game and really doesn't have a flaw in his game. Spurs will need him at his best with Michael Dawson facing a long spell out.

Central Defender: Younes Kaboul

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    I think Kaboul is the most likely partner for King in this one. Corluka would be a better pick in my opinion, but Happy Harry seems to really rate Younes, so I think he'll pick him for this one.

    He's likely to be tasked with keeping tabs on Luis Suarez. Best of luck to him with that one.

Right Midfield: Niko Kranjcar

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    With Aaron Lennon likely to miss out, Kranjcar should retain his place on the team. He's not a natural right winger and is more effective in the centre or on the left.

    Don't be surprised to see him floating, or swapping flanks with Gareth Bale.

Left Midfield: Gareth Bale

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    Many people think Gareth Bale is one of the best players in the world. Many others, including myself, think he's somewhat overrated.

    Regardless of how you feel about him, it is a fact that he has failed to perform this season and generally does not have good games against top teams.

    Tottenham will be hoping that he can fix all that on Sunday, because they need a big performance from him.

Central Midfield: Scott Parker

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    Last season's Writer's Player of The Year joined Spurs on deadline and has slotted into the centre of their midfield in the absence of the Brazilian Sandro. His partnership with Modric is going to be important for Spurs this season.

    He will want to give a good account of himself while Sandro is out injured, so he can retain his place when Sandro returns. 

Central Midfield: Luka Modric

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    Tottenham's best player. Tottenham's most important player. And the player who least wants to play for Tottenham.

    Luka Modric no longer wants to wear the famous white shirt of Spurs, but Harry Redknapp refused to accept his summer transfer request and now has an unhappy player on his hands.

    Modric though is a professional, and he does truly love the game. While he has yet to play like himself this season, I'm sure he will find his form in the coming weeks and will give his all for the cause. I can't see him not starting in this game.

Striker: Emmanuel Adebayor

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    Spurs have been looking for a powerful goal scorer for the last couple of seasons, and in my opinion they found one in Adebayor. When in the mood, he's as good a centre forward as there is in England and can carry a team with his goals.

    Unfortunately, he's rarely been in the mood over the last few years. Harry Redknapp will need to keep him motivated if he wants to get the best out of Adebayor.

Striker: Jermain Defoe

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    Rafa Van Der Vaart faces a fitness test before being cleared to play in this game. I'm sure a lot of people think he should start if passed fit, but I think this game comes too early for him. The best option, to ensure his continued fitness, is to have him on the bench and bring him on if Spurs need a game-changer.

    Jermain Defoe and Adebayor showed signs of a good understanding against Wolves and I think that's a partnership with a lot of potential. Their styles complement each other very well, and I think Harry Redknapp should be looking at a way to keep them both on the team, even when Van Der Vaart does return to the starting 11.

Keys to Victory for Spurs

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    1. Get Modric involved early and often

    If Modric doesn't play well, Spurs can't win this game. I think he's going to be their key man in this match and will dictate how they play and how the game plays out as a whole. If Modric can get on the ball and get Spurs moving forward, they have a great chance here.

    2. Win the midfield battle

    Modric and Parker vs. Lucas and Adam is the key battle in the match. Whoever wins this battle will control the play. Liverpool have dominated possession in their last two matches as a result of winning the midfield battles against Bolton and Stoke, and Spurs will not want to allow Liverpool time and space to build up attacks. They must win their tackles, get the ball and use it smartly.

    3. Test the right side of the Liverpool defence

    Liverpool's defence is a bit unbalanced right now. Daniel Agger and Jose Enrique represent arguably one of the best left-sided defensive pairing in England and have rarely been troubled this season.

    The opposite side is where Liverpool have struggled. If Martin Skrtel is picked to play right back, then Gareth Bale must get at him from the opening whistle and force him to defend.

    If Martin Kelly is picked at right back,then he represents a far better defender who can neutralize Bale. In that case, Jamie Carragher is the one to test.

    Carragher has been at fault for a couple of goals already this season and Spurs would be wise to get him turning and trying to recover after balls slipped in behind him. Defoe's pace will be a key factor here.

Spurs Formation

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    I think we will see Harry Redknapp employ a variation of a 4-4-2 system in this match, although it won't be the normal 4-4-2 we generally see from Spurs due to the absence of Aaron Lennon.

    Niko Kranjcar is a very talented player, but he doesn't like sticking to the flank, and beating a fullback to get his cross in is not one of his strong suits.

    Spurs may end up playing almost a 4-3-1-2 with the "1" being Gareth Bale in a more advanced role to his fellow midfielders, but still operating on the left. Kyle Walker is likely to be asked to provide the width on the right. 

    I see Spurs lining up something like this:






Goalkeeper: Pepe Reina

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    Pepe is fit, therefore Pepe will start. It really is that simple.

Right Back: Martin Kelly

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    He's been back in training for over a week now, and I think it's hugely important that he starts. Liverpool will need him to keep Gareth Bale under wraps.

    Martin Skrtel has done a decent job in this role since Kelly's injury, but this position is foreign to him and his positional play has been questionable.

    The other option here is John Flanagan, who did not have the best of times against Spurs last season and doesn't look to be up to the task at this point in his career.

Left Back: Jose Enrique

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    As sure as Harry Redknapp is Jamie's dad, Jose Enrique is Liverpool's first-choice left back and will be starting this match.

Central Defender: Jamie Carragher

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    Carragher has been unfortunate in the last two games.

    Two very solid displays have been spoiled by two costly errors, although he was unlucky last week and should have been awarded a free-kick for a barge rather than having a penalty given against him, there have been calls for him to be replaced.

    I don't see that happening this weekend and expect Carragher to captain the side.

Central Defender: Daniel Agger

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    Liverpool's best defender has yet to put a foot wrong this season and has, thankfully, remained fit thus far. If he can continue his form and fitness, Liverpool should continue to be strong at the back. He must play unless ruled out with an injury.

Right Midfield: Dirk Kuyt

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    Kuyt is the acting heart of Liverpool while Steven Gerrard continues his path to fitness and a return to the first team, and I think Kenny will want to keep him in the team despite a poor performance last weekend against Stoke.

    Craig Bellamy could possibly get the start here, as obviously could Jordan Henderson, who has filled the role thus far this season. Henderson looked like a player in need of a week off against Stoke, and I expect Kuyt to start on the right of midfield.

Left Midfield: Stewart Downing

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    Downing falls into the same category as Reina, Enrique and Agger; he's fit, so he will play. I might actually save a template for these articles with their names permanently in them.

    Downing will be looking to continue his good start to the season, and will also be looking to open his goal-scoring account.

Central Midfield: Lucas Leiva

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    Lucas comes into this game a man on form following top-class displays against both Bolton and Stoke. He also comes in with a point to prove.

    He had arguably his worst game of last season against Spurs at Anfield when Modric and Sandro outplayed him and his fellow midfielders with remarkable ease. He will want to rectify that with a good performance.

Central Midfield: Charlie Adam

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    Liverpool fans saw the best of Charlie Adam against Bolton, and they saw the worst of Charlie Adam against Stoke. He had a very poor game and was guilty of giving the ball away cheaply on far too many occasions.

    He will need to repeat his performance against Bolton if he wants to retain his starting place when the captain returns.

Striker: Luis Suarez

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    If players like Reina, Agger, Enrique, Lucas and Downing are among the first names on the team sheet, then Suarez's name is already printed on that same sheet before Kenny Dalglish even begins to think about his team.

    Suarez has been Liverpool's shining light this season and the Reds will be desperate for him to continue his fantastic form against Spurs.

    He's gone two games without a goal now and that will not sit well with El Pistolero. Expect Brad Friedel to find himself getting tested pretty frequently.

Striker: Craig Bellamy

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    Bellamy came on as a sub at the same time as Andy Carroll against Stoke, and you would be hard pressed to tell which of them was bought for £35 million and which of them arrived on a free based on their performances.

    Bellamy was lively, inventive and always trying to create something. He linked well with Suarez and showed that he still has the pace to trouble defenders and can still find space in the penalty area.

    I think we could see him upfront against Spurs, as he and Suarez showed a good understanding when they linked up last week and that may be something Dalglish will want to explore.

    He could also find himself on the wing with Kuyt up front, but I'm hoping Kenny goes with him up front.

Keys to Victory for the Reds

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    1. Be careful with possession

    This is mainly in relation to Charlie Adam. For Liverpool to win this game, Adam must be more careful with his passes. He needs to be a little less Hollywood and little more functional with his passes.

    He has to pick his targets and his passes more diligently than he did against Stoke and his must also try to keep the ball on the floor more often, as long balls to Suarez are not what the Uruguayan wants to see coming his way.

    Keep the ball on the floor, and Liverpool could have a lot of joy against Spurs.

    2. Keep it tight at the back

     This is mainly directed at Jamie Carragher. If Martin Kelly starts, then Carragher only needs to focus on his own game, as the other three defenders will do their jobs as well as anyone in the league.

    Another costly mistake from Carragher in this match and he will find the calls for him to be replaced increasing.

    3. Play through Suarez

     It's pretty self-explanatory, Liverpool must play in a manner which involved Suarez as much as possible.

    Fast-paced, quick passing, interchanging and runners coming from deep. Liverpool are a pretty average team without Suarez; with him they are Champions League material. 

Liverpool Formation

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    I've gone for two changes in personnel from the team that faced Stoke, but I think the system has to stay the same.

    It has worked well since being implemented for the Bolton game and it is far more effective than the system used against Sunderland and Arsenal. It's a pretty standard 4-4-2 that can morph into a 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 in the blink of an eye.

    I think Liverpool will line up something like this:





    We could also see Bellamy on the wing and Kuyt up front.


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    White Hart Lane has not been a happy hunting ground for Liverpool over the years, and Spurs looked like they might be finding a bit of form in their last match against Wolves.

    That being said, I think the absences of Dawson, Lennon and potentially Van Der Vaart, coupled with the lack of form thus far from Modric, gives Liverpool an advantage as they have been the more impressive side thus far in the new season.

    Kenny Dalglish will want to get revenge on Spurs for beating his side to the Europa League and, as in the picture, I think Happy Harry may not be so happy after this one.

    Prediction: Spurs 1 Liverpool 2