Liverpool have been the surprise package of the current Premier League season, currently sitting second and five points adrift of leaders Arsenal. However, they have been handed a tricky set of fixtures over the Christmas period, which should be a true test as to whether or not they are title contenders.
Their first challenge comes this Sunday, with a trip to White Hart Lane to face Tottenham. Andre Villas-Boas has recently been scrutinised for some poor performances, and he will have something to prove.
Meanwhile, Brendan Rodgers will be hoping to continue his winning ways after two home wins against Norwich City and West Ham United, however due to injuries to his squad, he will have to play a weaker side in this tie.
Last weekend, Liverpool recorded a convincing victory over West Ham United, scoring four goals in the process. There was a huge negative however, with captain Steven Gerrard's hamstring injury possibly ruling him for over a month, missing all of Liverpool’s tough fixtures.
Liverpool lack depth in the centre of the park, and with Jordan Henderson also possibly out of the game on Sunday, he may have to hand a start to young Spaniard Luis Alberto. Joe Allen has recently returned from a hamstring injury himself and will also be looking to start in this potentially make or break fixture.
Another problem Liverpool could face is not having Daniel Sturridge and the pace and power he possesses. At times since his injury, Liverpool have struggled to create for Luis Suarez, leaving him to do all the work on his own, which admittedly has not proven to be a huge problem, with five goals and two assists in his last two games.
One option Liverpool could use to add to the creative options is young Brazilian starlet Philippe Coutinho. Recently deployed out wide, Coutinho's best position is in the No. 10 role behind the striker. Here, he can display his wide range of passing and his ability to beat a man.
Rodgers will also have a selection dilemma in defence, but this is not due to injuries, more to the fact he has good depth in his defensive options and Liverpool's centre-backs have been performing well this season.
Summer signing Mamadou Sakho, who arrived from Paris Saint-Germain and can be played at left-back or centre-back, has been in great form when he has started, likewise Kolo Toure has showed signs of performing like he did for Arsenal after signing on a free from Manchester City.
Anfield veterans Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger have also played well, with Skrtel playing more than any other central defender for the Merseyside club this season.
It had been rumoured this season that the big Danish international could be on his way out of Anfield, due to a lack of games played. However, what many people do not know is he has had many small knocks this season.
In my opinion, if he was fit he would start, as he is Liverpool’s best centre-back as indicated by his displays last season, when partnered with legend Jamie Carragher.
The back four of Liverpool all depends on whether Agger has recovered from the illness that kept him out of the game at West Ham. If so, then I will expect him to start alongside Martin Skrtel in defence.
The duo's experienced partnership will be what the Reds need to contain the onrushing midfielders that Tottenham possess, with the likes of Christian Eriksen and Gylfi Sigurdsson. Saying that, though, Sakho put in a great performance at West Ham, more or less single-handedly dealing with the long ball, but Agger’s experience may be needed in this one.
I am expecting a great game at White Hart Lane, with both teams going at it, wanting all three points.
Also, I expect Liverpool to play in a more defensive manner away from home, with Suarez starting up-front on his own and with the wingers playing in a more defensive role, marking the likes of Kyle Walker and Jan Vertonghen who like to push up from defence.
Rodgers will want to control the game, so may decide to pack the midfield, playing Allen and Lucas in deep roles, with one of Coutinho, Iago Aspas, or Alberto playing a supporting role to Suarez on the counter-attack.
Obviously I think it will be a tough task for the Reds to get a win, but I believe they have what it takes to get all three points this weekend.
Predicted XI: Mignolet, Johnson, Skrtel, Sakho, Flanagan, Allen, Lucas, Sterling, Coutinho, Moses, Suarez.
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