Regardless of their struggles the past few seasons, Liverpool have found a way to perform at a high level against the league's top sides. They haven't been dominant by any stretch, but wins against United, City, Arsenal, and Chelsea have all been delivered even as consistent league form hasn't. In league and domestic cup competition, there's been something different about Liverpool.
That trend hasn't continued this season, with the club yet to get a win against any club in the top half other than Swansea a few weeks ago. A handful of encouraging performances should have seen Liverpool take all three points--home and away against City, home against United, and away to Arsenal--only for individual errors or temporary lapses to see them turn potential wins into missed opportunities.
The outlier in both cases has been Tottenham, who've been among the top sides over the past three seasons, and even as Liverpool have upped their collective performance against other sides above them, they've failed to do so against Spurs, winning just once in the past three and a half seasons and only twice in their last nine matches. It's a worrying trend, but one that's reflective of the clubs' opposite trajectories over the past four years.
None of that comes as a surprise to Jamie Carragher, who's keenly aware of Liverpool's struggles against the side they'll host on Sunday:
"The last time we beat Tottenham in 2010 it was like a European night at Anfield. I remember the noise after I made a couple of tackles and won a corner at the Kop end in the first half. We were on a bad run at the time but the atmosphere was fantastic and the crowd really carried us home.
"Both teams were going for the top four but unfortunately we weren't able to push on after that and get fourth place. Spurs got it and credit to them. We've found it tough against them ever since."
Spurs' recent form against everyone else is just as good; unbeaten since early December in league and fresh off wins in the North London Derby over Arsenal and a resounding 3-0 win over Inter in the Europa League yesterday. Gareth Bale's on tremendous goalscoring form, and even with the loss of Sandro for the rest of the season, their midfield's proven both talented and effective, helping them overcome the lack of a proven, consistent goalscorer up top.
But as others are so quick to remind Liverpool and their supporters, history is just history, and it doesn't necessarily have to have any bearing on the outcome of Sunday's match. Recent form and momentum might, but Liverpool's failings over the past few seasons aren't guaranteed to. And, as everyone's also quick to remind us, this is the type of match that Liverpool will need to win if they're going to start a new trend, one that could finally see them kick on for the rest of the season and head into the fall with ambitions that are furthered by their hopes for the future rather than the successes--or failings--of the past.