Tonight sees Liverpool and Tottenham go head-to-head in the latest battle between the contenders for fourth spot. If week 22 matches were anything to go by then all teams are doing their best to give the priceless spot to someone else.
Liverpool’s average display against Stoke is a microcosm of their ‘pants on the ground’ season, with performances lacking sharpness, imagination and concentration (not bad luck) in dropping points in key Premier League and Champions League games. Below par performances from their back four, a workman-like midfield showing as much flair as a Skoda Octavia – and a strike force that sends out an SOS to the half-crocked Torres.
But in their darkest hour there is a ray of light, the 4-point gap from that magical fourth spot. Liverpool is on the ropes, losing the fight but somehow still can produce the ‘haymaker.’
Herein lies the beauty of Wednesday night’s clash. This is Tottenham’s acid test of their credentials as a ‘wannabe’ big four team. The quality and depth within their squad shows the potential is very much there but potential and actual are two very different things (I should know as an Arsenal fan). Some days they show they’re the ‘real-deal’ with excellent wins against Wigan, West Ham, Blackburn and a good point at Fulham. Then dropped points against so called ‘lesser’ teams such as Wolves, Sunderland, Stoke and now Hull (albeit by the brilliance of Maher) shows that at times they get above their station.
Spurs are showing signs that although they will be in the mix, the cake isn’t going to be baked on time. And with all the ability in their squad it may come down to handling the pressure of what is at stake, which is why they will fall short. This match provides Liverpool the perfect opportunity to play with intensity and passion as if this game were to decide their Champions League fate. With a victory a message would be sent to the other challengers Aston Villa and big bucks Manchester City that despite the cracks appearing throughout the club that they are on their tails and will not give up the fourth spot without a fight to the bitter end.
My prediction – a 2-1 home win and a little respite for Benitez…. for now.