Often one of the most attractive fixtures on the Premier League calendar, it is difficult to know how to place Wednesday’s matchup between Tottenham and Liverpool at White Hart Lane.
Both sides find themselves under new management this season and thus in something of a rebuilding phase. For the home side, the scope of overhaul is much less drastic with Spurs having finished fourth under previous manager Harry Redknapp last term.
But having lost Luka Modric, Rafael van der Vaart and club legend Ledley King in the summer, coupled with the defined style and personality of new boss Andre Villas-Boas, there was always going to be a transitional phase.
The side recorded an impressive and all-important victory over West Ham on Sunday, a result that ended a run of three straight Premier League defeats. Moussa Dembele made a second-straight appearance as a substitute in that fixture and given the Belgian’s influence in midfield, Villas-Boas must be tempted to start him against Liverpool. Fellow midfielder Sandro looks a certain starter after recovering from a stomach injury that forced him off last time out.
Emmanuel Adebayor is still suspended, however, while Scott Parker, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Younes Kaboul remain on the sidelines.
Like Villas-Boas, Brendan Rodgers is one of the game’s new breed of managers with a very clear plan of how he wants his teams set out. Yet the former Swansea boss is faced with a much greater task in turning Liverpool back into a Premier League force.
Trying to overhaul the team’s playing style, while also forced to deal with the previous regime’s misdealings in the transfer market, was never going to be easy in the early going.
There are signs that Rodgers is beginning to get things right, though, with his side having gone seven matches unbeaten in the Premier League. Yet the team continues to be hamstrung by the lack of firepower up front to support Luis Suarez, as Saturday’s goalless draw with Swansea demonstrated.
Young defender Andre Wisdom has returned to fitness, but Wednesday’s match comes too early for Lucas Leiva despite an appearance for the reserves.
D: Walker, Dawson, Caulker, Vertonghen
M: Sandro, Huddlestone
Lennon, Dempsey, Bale
D: Wisdom, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson
M: Gerrard, Allen, Sahin
Sterling, Suarez, Enrique
Prediction: Tottenham should be buoyed by an excellent performance against West Ham last time out and must be looking to pick up all three points against Liverpool. Rodgers’ problems in attack are demonstrated by the fact that regular full-back Jose Enrique was deployed in a left-sided forward role against Swansea and the Spaniard may well feature there again.
Liverpool will have plenty of possession, but the attacking verve and dynamism of Tottenham should see the home side come out on top.
Tottenham 2-1 Liverpool
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League encounter kicks-off at 2.45 p.m. ET. A live online stream will be viewable on ESPN3.