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Match Preview: Liverpool v. Tottenham, 05.15.11

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Spurs visit Anfield in a match that could decide both clubs' European fates.

In a season with moments as bad as this one's had, to have something left to play for in the last two matches of the season is unbelievable. Sure, it's the Europa League, and everyone's more focused on having a proper run at a Premier League title than they are moonlighting live on Five on Thursdays in the fall, but it's a chance for achievement in a season that seemed destined for failure.

For Tottenham, it's almost the flip side of the coin---a season that saw a successful Champions League debut and a sustained run at re-qualification now has the North London club is serious jeopardy of missing out on Europe all together, with only one win in league since the middle of February. Despite the struggles there's been little discussion of Harry Redknapp's future with the club, as he's maintained a good reputation even as his club stumbles to the finish line.

Their figurative limp to the finish line is accompanied by a literal limp from at least five regular first-teamers, with Gareth Bale, Benoit Assou-Ekoto, Tom Huddlestone, William Gallas, and Heurelho Gomes all due to miss out, and Wilson Palacios likely unavailable after picking up an injury at City midweek. Redknapp will be able to call on any number of his misfiring front men, as Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, and Roman Pavlyuchenko are all fit, and they'll be supported by Rafael van der Vaart, Aaron Lennon, Steven Pienaar, their biggest threat (for everyone whose upper lip isn't attached to the inner walls of Gareth Bale's colon) in Luka Modric, and Sandro in the midfield. Michael Dawson will lead from the back alongside Younes Kaboul, Danny Rose, and Verdran Corluka in front of Carlo Cudicini.

For Liverpool:

1. Who will start for Liverpool?
2. What’s the most important factor for the Reds?
3. Who’s going to win and what’s going to be the scoreline?

1. Who will start for Liverpool?

Reina
Flanagan Carragher Skrtel Johnson
Kuyt Lucas Spearing Maxi
Carroll Suarez

---There's questions about Raul Meireles and Andy Carroll, with the former limping off early in the second half against Fulham and the latter missing out on the squad completely. Milan Jovanovic continues to be listed as some sort of injured, as do Martin Kelly, Steven Gerrard, and Daniel Agger.

---I've been wrong the last two times out about Andy Carroll starting, but I figure with the injury to Raul Meireles and an extended spell of rehab for the January signing, we finally get to see the new number nine get some meaningful minutes again. Which, of course, means that Meireles is completely fit, his restricted training today was merely precautionary, and we'll get the same front six in some sort of mystery constellation that leads to seven or eight goals.

---Coming back off the ledge, the back line writes itself at the moment, even with Fabio Aurelio no longer on the injury list. John Flanagan and Glen Johnson will likely again fill either fullback role; last week we saw a continuation of Flanagan left and Johnson right, but with Aaron Lennon the probable starter on the right for Spurs I'm guessing that the more experienced Johnson heads left. Barring any unmentioned fitness concerns, Martin Skrtel and Jamie Carragher will continue in central defense against a much-maligned Spurs front line.

---Four of the front six that we know we'll see are Lucas, Jay Spearing, Dirk Kuyt, and Luis Suarez, with the first two resuming their effective partnership in central midfield, and Kuyt back on the right if Carroll returns to the squad. Maxi's more than earned his place in the squad regardless of who's fit, and I think that were it not for the questions about Meireles, we'd probably see Kuyt, Meireles, Maxi, and Suarez carrying the load in attack.

---The lack of news about Andy Carroll could again be indicative of a slow recovery, but it wouldn't really be Dalglish's style to give any sort of indication one way or the other. Like I mentioned, I'm not sure that he goes directly into the squad if everyone's fit, but he's the most likely if Meireles misses out.

2. What’s the most important factor for the Reds?

As if the promise of European football for the winner wasn't enough, there's the timing of the Dalglish contract announcement and the fact that it's Liverpool's last home match of the season. We've talked plenty about the impact that playing at Anfield has for Liverpool this season, and tomorrow promises to be the most atmospheric occasion in Liverpool's 2010-2011 campaign. There's always the danger that Liverpool could get lost in the pomp and circumstance, but as long as they don't, there's plenty in their favor.

3. Who’s going to win and what’s going to be the scoreline?

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Fresh on the heels of saying that this promises to be one of the biggest matches of the season, it seems a little strange to say that, at the current moment, I can't find a listing for this one in England. Might just be a late posting, but for now I'm not able to find anything. Viewers in North America can find it on Fox Soccer Channel, and those without TV service should be able to catch a stream close to kickoff. We'll have listings and links to whatever's available in the matchday thread along with team sheets around an hour before the start time.

Hope you all have a nice Saturday, and that come tomorrow afternoon we'll be able to finish the weekend with something else to celebrate.