Liverpool v Spurs: Red revival restores an all-too familiar order
WHEN Aaron Lennon’s injury-time winner gave Spurs a 2-1 victory over Liverpool at the end of November, it looked like further evidence of a seismic change in the Premier League hierarchy.
Having won four out of the last six meetings and beaten the Reds to Champions League qualification, Tottenham were one point outside the top four again, while Roy Hodgson’s Merseysiders were five points above the relegation zone.
By mid-January the Lilywhites had stretched their lead to 11 points, talking about a title shot as they trailed Chelsea by one point.
The glamorous trip to AC Milan was on the horizon, while the Anfield outfit that they had usurped – now managed by Dalglish – were just four points above the drop zone.
The fact that Liverpool have since overtaken Harry Redknapp’s side says as much about Spurs’ collapse as it does about the Reds’ revival, but the fact remains – the gap has closed.
The fear for everyone at Tottenham is that it has closed indefinitely – particularly given Liverpool’s recent form.
Dalglish’s side have won four of their last five games, thrashing Man City 3-0 before drawing 1-1 at Arsenal and then thumping Birmingham (5-0), Newcastle (3-0) and Fulham (5-2).
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The goals have been flooding in and, when it comes to explaining this renaissance, Hodgson would probably highlight the January signings of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez, who arrived after he had been sacked.
Suarez, a Spurs target back in the summer, has certainly been a revelation, bringing flair and creativity back to Anfield and notching up four goals – with two in his last two games.
By comparison, Carroll’s impact has been limited by injuries – he has made just eight appearances – but his two goals against City last month served notice of his talents, and his intention to justify his �35m price tag.
Hodgson could claim that his ill-fated spell at Anfield would have gone very differently if he had had Suarez and Carroll in his squad, rather than a misfiring and/or disinterested Fernando Torres and David Ngog.
However, it is impossible to underestimate the effect that Dalglish has had on the underperforming players he inherited.
Dirk Kuyt has nine goals in his last eight league games, including a hat-trick against Manchester United, and Maxi Rodriguez has suddenly sprung to life too.
The Argentina international had epitomised Liverpool’s decline since his free transfer from Atletico Madrid in January 2010, but he is now a symbol of their revival, having scored seven goals in his last three games from the wing.
Dalglish’s achievements at Liverpool are even more impressive given that his talismanic captain, Steven Gerrard, has been sidelined since the start of March.
However, the much-maligned Lucas Leiva has stepped up to the plate alongside 22-year-old academy graduate Jay Spearing, who has made 18 appearances this season.
The terrier-like Spearing is not the only home-grown youngster to rise and shine this campaign and, following an injury to 21-year-old right-back Martin Kelly, 18-year-old full-back John Flanagan is getting his moment in the sun, clocking up his fifth appearance in Monday’s victory at Fulham.
The verdict: We’ve backed Spurs all season, but everything points towards a defeat here.
Liverpool have the momentum, and they have turned Anfield back into a fortress, winning their last four home games by an aggregate margin of 14-1 – which includes fixtures against Manchester United and Manchester City.
Add the history, that Spurs haven’t won a league game at Liverpool for over 17 years, since August 1993, and there’s only one result on the cards.
Prediction: Liverpool 3 Spurs 0