Another trip to North London for Liverpool, this time to White Hart Lane to face Harry Redknapp's Spurs side. Tomorrow's hosts won both meetings last season, a feat they hadn't accomplished in nearly twenty-five years. They've been remarkably consistent over the past three years when hosting Liverpool, winning each time with a 2-1 scoreline. So even with the ripples still settling from an uneasy finish to the transfer window, it promises to be yet another stern away test for Kenny Dalglish and company.
The results of the morning, and more specifically the result at Ewood Park, have again underlined the sentiment that things are a little more wide open this season. Arsenal's struggles continue, and from a Liverpool perspective, that's created optimism about the chances of getting back in the running for a Champions League spot. We know from Liverpool's own turnaround last season that nothing's set in stone, but a strong start for the Reds in the midst of difficulties for the other sides that expect to challenge, even this early in the season, would provide a big boost.
It's been a challenging start to the league season for Spurs---their opener with Everton was cancelled due to the London riots, which meant they were tasked with getting their season up and running at Old Trafford. It was a valiant showing for the first hour, but they were overrun in the final thirty minutes, conceding three goals and looking well off the pace. Things didn't get any better when they hosted Manchester's other behemoth, as they shipped five (four coming from Edin Dzeko) in a continuation of their late struggles against United.
Things picked up last weekend in the West Midlands, though, with loanee Emmanuel Adebayor getting the opener in a 2-0 win away to Wolves. Jermain Defoe added the second in a match that saw Scott Parker make his Tottenham debut along with Adebayor, and Spurs got their first points of the season.
Redknapp's squad looks largely the same as they did last year, save for the additions of Brad Friedel and Emmanuel Adebayor. They'll have to cope with injuries to Michael Dawson, Aaron Lennon, Sandro, Danny Rose, Steven Pienaar, and Tom Huddlestone, while Rafa van der Vaart could make his return. They coped well enough at Wolves (and called on almost zero first-teamers in the Europa League), with Ledley King making his return alongside Younes Kaboul, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Kyle Walker in the fullback positions. And unsettled or not, Luka Modric will have an impact in the midfield, likely starting with Parker, Niko Kranjcar, and Gareth Bale, with Adebayor and Defoe partnering in attack.
Who starts for Liverpool?
Skrtel Carragher Agger Enrique
Kuyt Lucas Adam Downing
---Glen Johnson is the only who'll miss out for sure after re-aggravating his hamstring injury against Stoke. Steven Gerrard, Martin Kelly, and Fabio Aurelio were all mentioned as possibilities during Kenny Dalglish's presser earlier in the week.
---Even thought Kelly was mentioned, and Jon Flanagan is chomping at the bit, Martin Skrtel's likely to deputize at right back again, with Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger in the center and Jose Enrique on the left. I don't think Skrtel is anyone's first choice---he works hard and will do anything to get in the eleven, and that's all well and good, but he's clearly not a fullback and, if he does feature again, will have his hands full with Bale and Assou-Ekotto.
---Getting Steven Gerrard back in the eleven is a tempting prospect, particularly after Charlie Adam's display last weekend. Having him beyond tomorrow is probably more important, though, and if he's not 100%, there's no reason to push it. I think we're past the days when he gets the start if he can go at three-quarters speed; he's probably still better than most, but the chances seem too great for re-injury. That leaves a familiar midfield for now, with Lucas and Adam central and Dirk Kuyt and Stewart Downing wide.
---It seems like it gets harder and harder to figure out the constellation in attack---for now I'm guessing Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll partner, with Jordan Henderson sliding to the bench after a tough time at the Britannia. Carroll was influential after coming on, and after two consecutive matches as a substitute, it might be his turn. Craig Bellamy's also in the discussion, as he was fantastic in his cameo, but might be left out to give Dalglish an option late in the match.
What's the most important factor for the Reds?
Six points from their first three away matches of the season would be a terrific return considering the opposition---Arsenal, Stoke, and Spurs are traditionally difficult sides to visit, and any sort of result could be seen as some sort of positive. Liverpool's road form thus far has already looked miles ahead of where they were last season, and continuing that trend is critical. And while it's only the fifth match of the season for the Reds, it's a chance to assert themselves as a genuine contender for a place in the Champions League. Two wins away to their direct rivals for one of those spots, early or not, would be massive for a club that's slipped out of the discussion over the past two seasons.
Plenty of television coverage for folks tomorrow, with Sky Sports 1 showing the match in England and Fox Soccer Plus carrying it stateside. If you have to stream, we'll have links to sites where you're most likely to find it in the matchday thread, with team sheets running about an hour or so before kickoff. Make sure to let us know if there's a way to watch we don't have included, and we'll get it posted as soon as possible.
Enjoy what's left of your Saturday, and we'll see you back here tomorrow.