The season of quick turnarounds is well underway, with four matches from tomorrow to December 9th, and a run of fixtures that seems to always be classified as some sort of crunch time for Liverpool. Back when things were fuzzy and lovable it was a chance to extend a lead at the top, but over the past three seasons it's largely become a chance to try to gather points against sides Liverpool should be gathering points against, though at this point should doesn't quite carry the weight it used to.
It's an important stretch nonetheless, and one that will put Brendan Rodgers' depth-deprived squad to the test before the oft-mentioned January window opens. Whatever comes in January won't be here before then, making talk of what will or won't come pointless for now. There's a cluster of matches to be played before the new year, and it kicks off tomorrow with arguably their most challenging fixture.
Spurs' last two times out have unfortunately been marred by notable events off the pitch; their trip to Lazio in the Europa League included an assault on traveling fans and abysmal chanting from the home supporters, and in the London derby on Sunday, most of the headlines focused on the cretinous section of West Ham supporters that flung anti-Semitic abuse toward the club and called back to the trouble in Italy just a few days earlier. Goes without saying that none of that has a place in the game, and hopefully their club are taking all action possible against the parties involved.
On the pitch it's been a little bumpy, with a season to this point that hasn't quite resembled Liverpool's but isn't too far off. The win over West Ham was impressive, but came on the heels of three straight losses in league that kicked off with a home capitulation to Wigan. The loss of Emmanuel Adebayor through suspension stings, but Jermain Defoe stepped up against the Hammers with a well-taken brace and Clint Dempsey turned in one of his better (if not best) performances since joining on deadline day.
There aren't any new injuries for Villas-Boas, with Scott Parker, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, and Younes Kaboul still out but Sandro reportedly available for selection. Hugo Lloris looks to be in line to start in goal, and against West Ham he had a back line of Steven Caulker, Michael Dawson, Jan Vertonghen, and Kyle Walker in front of him. Tom Huddlestone started with Sandro in central midfield, and the two could partner again if the Brazilian is fit. Three of the front four will no doubt cause Liverpool problems at pace, with Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale on the flanks and Jermain Defoe up top, and last time out Clint Dempsey started just off Defoe centrally as both excelled.
Wisdom Skrtel Agger Johnson
Sterling Suarez Enrique
No fresh injuries from the weekend, but it's a quick enough turnaround that those who've struggled with fitness off and on this season (and more recently) might find the two-day gap too short to feature. Of the more recent concerns, Andre Wisdom is again the biggest question, as he was declared fit by Brendan Rodgers but was unable to make the matchday squad against Swansea. Oussama Assaidi also missed out, with very little explanation as to where he stands. Lucas is close but apparently not quite there yet, and still no timeline for either of Martin Kelly or Fabio Borini.
I'll pick Wisdom again, if only for the fact that I simply cannot fathom another start at fullback for Stewart Downing. Maybe Enrique drops deeper and someone else starts on the flank, or Jack Robinson gets a Premier League start for the first time in awhile. The former seems more likely, but in no equation should Downing be present. Hopefully Wisdom's back fit and on form, allowing Johnson and Enrique to combine on the left flank, although it wouldn't be a complete shock to have those two in the fullback roles and an extended layoff for Wisdom.
Liverpool's deepest position is also their most inconsistent and unsettled--Joe Allen was better against Swansea but still not at his best, Steven Gerrard is all over the place, and there's a revolving door for the third spot between Jonjo Shelvey, Jordan Henderson, and Nuri Sahin. Dropping Gerrard is very, very unlikely, but I'll guess it happens anyway because I think it needs to happen. Given his workrate against Swansea it's not as though he'd add anything defensively, and Henderson and Allen proved an effective partnership. Sahin's not been favored of late and could be nudged out by either Shelvey or Gerrard, but it'd be nice to see him back on the pitch, even if it's probably a stronger possibility that we don't see him until Southampton.
As long as everyone's recovered and not needed elsewhere, the front three should stay the same, with Raheem Sterling maybe the one who's most in need of rest. His workrate in both attack and defense will be needed, though, and if he doesn't start then it's either Suso or Oussama Assaidi, and the Moroccan again missed out on Sunday. Suarez will lead the line regardless of who's on either side, and we'll be left to hope that he has enough support to be effective either as finisher or provider.
Kickoff tomorrow is set for 7:45PM GMT/2:45PM EST, and at current there's no live listings available in
the US or the UK, but ESPN3.com will be airing the match in the US (H/T to Mr. Snurb). Viewing options are sure to come available at some point, and we'll include whatever we can in the matchday thread that'll run earlier in the day tomorrow. Radio streams will also be listed if they're around, as most will be scrambling to find some way to follow the match without televised options readily available.
Hope you've all had a good start to the week, and that you'll be around tomorrow for what should be a very important Liverpool match.