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Liverpool Offside Radio: An Upstart Rivalry Deferred

Liverpool turn their attention to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. A rivalry that threatened to flourish now feels a bit one-sided.

UEFA Champions League final: Tottenham vs Liverpool Photo by Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

I was sat in my house on Tuesday evening, as one does, watching the Lakers open their season against cross-hallway rivals, the Clippers. It is a weird time to be a Laker fan in this rivalry. Especially because it hasn’t exactly ever been a true one despite the rather unique level of proximity between the two teams. Familiarity, gleaned from sharing the same arena for home games, has apparently not truly built a lot of contempt.

There are a few reasons for that. First, historically, the Lakers have been one of the two best teams in league history. The Clippers would have to go on a two decade-long run of near domination with the Lakers stagnating in order to put them in the same historical context.

Second, even during the Lakers down cycles, the Clippers have never been able to fully cash in on their talent. As it stands, the club is still looking for its first championship trophy.

It’s not for lacking of trying, though, that a rivalry has truly failed to take root. The Clippers have beaten the Lakers to coveted signings over the last few years and have, generally, been more successful. But, again, championships.

On the eve of Liverpool hosting Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League this Sunday, I couldn’t help but think of how the dynamics of the Lakers and Clippers mirror the Reds and Spurs. How, despite all the best attempts by folks and circumstance, this rivalry is empty.

The thing about Spurs and Liverpool is that it makes far too much sense for it not to happen. They’ve generally floated in the same spaces near the top of the table for the better part of this past decade. And yet during the period where it felt like the clubs’ fortunes were in a bit of an oppositional set of tracks, with Spurs ascendant and Liverpool stuck in the muck from the implosion of the Hicks and Gillett era, Tottenham wasn’t able to secure a major trophy to add to their list.

And yet, there was always this sense that these two clubs might enter into some form of rivalry. Given that Liverpool were firmly locked in as true challengers to Manchester City’s reign as champions over the Premier League, lots of folks looked at Spurs as the clear third-best team in the league.

They had, after all, just made their first appearance in a Champions League final (a feat that has, as yet, eluded Manchester City) this past June. The team slated opposite them? Liverpool. Surely, a rivalry would spark out of this moment, right?

Well, Spurs rather turgid start to the season has once more thrown a bit of water on the tiny embers that’d begun to appear. And, now, Liverpool’s only sights are set at Manchester City and claiming #7.

The thing about Spurs and the Clippers is that there is so little care given to the Liverpool and Laker fan base respectively regarding these teams. No one’s going to rend their garments if the squads managed to notch a win. And even if the angst is raised a little when either club is beaten to a coveted player, no one is losing much sleep over it in the long run.

And that kind of apathy simply cannot breed a rivalry. It sucks all of the oxygen and smothers and embers before they truly spark. It communicates a thing that likely is more disrespectful than all-out enmity: these clubs simply aren’t on equal footing, and so aren’t competing for the same spaces.

Spurs, in the minds of Liverpool, simply aren’t good enough to care about.

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