Afternoon. Where to start? If Spurs win they go into fifth place. If Liverpool win they join Spurs on the same number of points (and can even go above them with a 2-0 win or more), yet one would expect there to be a greater divide between the two teams in the league given the reaction in the press to their starts to the season.
Tottenham's exploits in the Champions League have helped to keep a positive glow around White Hart Lane whereas Liverpool's Europa League performances do not have that clout. That said, it is clear that Spurs have a stronger squad than Liverpool and it will take an almighty effort to beat them without Steven Gerrard today.
Roy Hodgson will likely set Liverpool up to take a point, as is his way on the road. However, without Javier Mascherano's energy in midfield, Liverpool have struggled to be as resistant as they once were. Generally, the 4-5-1 formation has isolated Fernando Torres and encouraged the opposition to attack.
Tottenham, under Harry Redknapp, need no encouragement to go forwards. With Luka Modric pulling the strings in midfield and both Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon providing pace and width, this could be a difficult day for Liverpool. Lucas Leiva will have to stick to Modric like glue.
Prediction: Tottenham 2-1 Liverpool
It looks like Liverpool's starting line-up is going to be 4-4-2 (probably a very narrow one):
Reina, Johnson, Konchesky, Carragher, Skrtel, Lucas, Meireles, Maxi, Kuyt, Ngog, Torres.
So my prediction that Liverpool would perhaps be negative looks a little off the mark. Ho-hum.
Tottenham: Gomes, Hutton, Kaboul, Gallas, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon,
Palacios, Modric, Bale, Van der Vaart, Crouch.
Subs: Cudicini, Pavlyuchenko, Defoe, Bassong, Kranjcar, Corluka, Sandro.
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Konchesky, Kuyt,
Meireles, Lucas, Maxi, Torres, Ngog.
Subs: Jones, Aurelio, Jovanovic, Kyrgiakos, Babel, Poulsen, Shelvey.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire)
The good news for Spurs is that Van der Vaart starts. He had been a major doubt after a recent knock to his ankle. So he's likely to play just off Crouch. Liverpool, surprisingly, look to have the more conventional 4-4-2 formation with both David Ngog and Fernando Torres starting in attack.
3.47pm: Thanks to Fraggle Wump for letting me know that the tape on Bale's legs is called Kinesio tape. Apparently, "unlike regular athletic taping, using kinesio tape allows freedom of motion without restricting muscles or blood flow. By allowing the muscles a larger degree of movement, the body is able to heal itself more quickly and fully than before." So it's the new version of cycling shorts.
3.50pm: Wilson Beuys reckons Liverpool are better off without Steven Gerrard. "I'd have said that without his position-less wandering around the pitch, Liverpool tend to keep the shape Hodgson wants rather better – and that they might play better as a result. Although as a Spurs fan, I'm hoping your prediction is nearer the mark."
I know many Liverpool fans who echo your view Wilson. Personally, I've always thought he was more influential on the right cutting in, but to say Liverpool are better without him on the pitch full-stop is ludicrous.
3.54pm: "One out and out striker is not necessarily negative," writes Niall Mullen. "The isolation of Torres is to do with a defensive philosophy and a lack of any sort of passing player. Hodgson is so far out of his depth I can't even see his bouffant sticking out of the water."
3.57pm: The teams make their way out of the tunnel. Carragher leads Liverpool out while Spurs are capatained by Gallas. If Hodgson takes Liverpool to sixth this season how will this be judged by Liverpool fans? I'd have thought his remit was to do better than Rafa Benítez under difficult circumstances. It really could go disasterously wrong if they suffer a few more defeats but a win today could kickstart a serious push for the top four too.
"Big Up the Spurs from Tokyo," awoogas Stuart Hamilton. "I have spent a lot of today reading the ashes OBO about how people employed coffee and booze to stay up and watch the cricket, now I find myself with a bottle of sake in front of the TV in my hotel room with Japanese commentary waiting for a 1am kick-off. The things we do for love eh?" I take it the cockerel is your only friend in bed, Stuart?
Peep! It looks bitterly cold at White Hart Lane as Martin Atkinson gets the game underway. Liverpool are kicking from left to right if you would like to frame a picture of that in your minds.
1 min: It's all tame stuff to begin with. Spurs keep possession at the back with Kaboul and Gallas knocking a few passes to one another but going nowhere in any hurry.
2 min: In fact, so relaxed is Gallas that he gets too close to Gomes and plays a dodgy backpass which the Spurs No1 scuffs clear uncomfortably.
3 min: Lennon leaves Lucas and Meireles for dead with a turbo-charged run through the middle of the pitch, but treads on the ball as he enters the Liverpool area and gets a moody look from Van Der Vaart for his trouble. He was free to Lennon's left.
4 min: Another jet-heeled dash from Lennon leaves Konchesky yards behind him. It's a decent cross on this occasion to Modric, but the Spurs midfielder hits his attempted volley into the ground and Reina catches comfortably.
6 min: Spurs have started the match as the dominant force, as you'd expect from the home team, but a Liverpool break gives Tottenham food for thought, with Rodriguez flicking the ball through to Torres, who is clear on goal but a yard offside. My hands are freezing! Guardian Towers is icy this afternoon.
8 min: Liverpool mount another attack. Kuyt holds off his marker and finds Rodriguez 12 yards from goal. He toe-pokes a shot towards the top corner but it sails a yard wide. Van Der Vaart looks to have injured himself stretching for the ball.
9 min: Van Der Vaart is substituted. He looks to have tweaked his hamstring. On in his place comes Jermain Defoe. That substitution depicts perfectly the strength of Spurs' squad these days. Meanwhile, Kuyt finds space on the right but plays a dreadful pass into the box, yards behind Torres and Ngog.
11 min: Palacios goes one better than Kuyt and fails to find Lennon on the right with the simplest of passes. Tottenham fans then sarcastically cheer his next completed pass. Bit harsh? Liverpool win a corner on the right.
13 min: Meireles fails to beat the first man (which should be sackable) and Spurs clear with ease.
15 min: "Why are the Liverpool fans so down on Roy Hodgson?" asks Ian Markey. "He has been left with a truck load of debt and a shed load of players not up to standard by Benítez, who even at Inter continues to blame his lack of success on the paucity of the squad he has inherited. Despite them being treble champions last season under a manager who COULD manage!" I couldn't begin to answer that question while trying to explain what's going on in this match, Ian. But perhaps some readers would like to help out. Although I could be inviting essays, not pithy emails, so perhaps scrap that.
17 min: Rodriguez is causing Spurs problems as he cuts in from the left. Again, Ngog and Torres combine well on the edge of the area and Rodriguez (who I'm going to call Maxi from hereonin to save my fingers) goes unchecked as he drifts in from the left and strikes powerfully towards the bottom right-hand corner, forcing a fine save from Gomes.
19 min: Yup, it's hamstring twang that has done for Van Der Vaart. Meanwhile, Spurs have won a free-kick 30 yards from goal. Kaboul, Bale and Modric stand over it ...
20 min: Modric flicks the ball off to Kaboul, but Meireles races out to him and forces a wild swipe which goes five or six yards over to the right of goal.
21 min: "When Rafa had a bad signing (and there are many to choose from) he didn't stick with them," offers Nial Mullen. "Josemi, Kronkamp, Dossena, Degen were out on their ears quickly. Hodgson looks like he'll stick with Konchesky forever." To be fair, he hasn't got a reserve who is fit and he can't buy anyone till January, so he hasn't got a choice Niall. This is an intriguing match. Liverpool look dangerous when they go forwards. Their passing is sharper and less intricate than Spurs'. Lucas has a bash from 30 yards on a rare forray forwards and forces Gomes into a decent save.
24 min: Palacios wastes possession again in midfield for Spurs. That'll get him another sarcastic cheer next time he pasess the ball successfully.
26 min: Alan Hutton should be booked for a pathetic dive in the Liverpool box. Martin Atkinson waves away the Spurs appeal for a penalty when he should have been waving a yellow card in Hutton's face. Prior to that Carragher ran into Crouch's hip as a corner was played in from the left, spinning the big man around in the air and giving him no chance to get his head on the ball. That incident was worth a penalty shout for sure. Very clumsy from Carragher? Or perhaps he practised it at Melwood when Crouch wore red?
28 min: Meireles looks much more mobile for Liverpool now than he did when he first arrived. He is a much more influential player in the centre than the right. Meanwhile, Konchesky is booked after sliding in on a rampaging Gareth Bale and missing by inches. He should have edged his bets and stayed out of it. Bale was flying. He's going to take the free-kick from 25 yards ...
30 min: Bale drives the free-kick straight into the Liverpool wall. "Bale's inner thighs look like they have been franked by the post office," offers Ian Copestake. "Perhaps it is in case he telegraphs any of his passes." Send your laughs to me and I'll post them on to Ian. I imagine I won't have much work to do ...
32 min: Jamie Carragher makes a fantastic block with the goal gaping for Jermain Defoe. Reina could only parry a low cross from Lennon, the ball lands at Defoe's feet and he drives low at goal but finds Carragher's right boot outstretched to clear the danger.
33 min: Liverpool are playing well on the counter-attack. Kuyt and Meireles combine well and the Dutchman plays a quick pass out to the right where Torres is free. He runs at Kaboul and tries to feint left and right before hitting a frustrated effort straight into Kaboul's right knee. Kaboul ges down injured, which is odd ...
35 min: Torres must have thumped that with some vigour. Kaboul is replaced by Bassong.
37 min: It's been a very close match so far. I couldn't call which way it might go. Liverpool look fresh and very well organised. Hutton finds space on the right after a neat one-two with Lennon, but his cross is aimed too close to Reina and the Spanaird catches it comfortably.
38 min: "No sooner do I finish singing 'Arry's praises for his superior tactical acumen to Arsène's, than he goes and repeats Arsène's mistake precisely, risking a not fully fit Van Der Vaart and losing him to a hamstring, and thus making a hash of my subbing him for Fábregas as captain of my fantasy team. Drat!" That moan comes courtesy of Richard T. W. Arthur, who sounds like an explorer to me.
39 min: Meireles almost catches Gomes off guard with a thumping right-footed effort from all of 25 yards. Gomes gets down ever so slowly and just manages to divert it wide by a foot. Gomes didn't look too sure on that occasion.
40 min: Predictably, The Liverpool corner comes to nought (do corners matter anymore? Throw-ins are more in vogues these days aren't they?). Spurs break and get a free-kick ...
Goal! Spurs 0-1 Liverpool (Sktel 42 min) Bale whacks his free-kick wide and Liverpool win a free-kick of their own 40 yards from goal. Meireles curls a delicious ball into the box, where Skrtel rises high and heads the ball off Ngog's back. The ball drops straight to Skrtel's feet and he pokes the ball into the right-hand corner. It was a scruffy goal ...
44 min: A second look at the goal makes me think that perhaps the Spurs defenders could have been quicker to react, but it's difficult to be too critical. Carragher was booked earlier for the tackle on Modric that led to Bale's free-kick attempt. Just thought I'd tidy-up that detail ...
45 min: Torres finds Maxi with a wonderful scoop inside. The Argentinian should score, but chooses to drag the ball on to his left foot and then falls over his own feet like an egg on legs.
45+2 min: What a finish to the half. Bale skins Johnson – who is so slow to react – and drives a vicious cross in towards Crouch, but Skrtel and Carragher, crowd out the big striker and clear the ball to Meireles. He controls and sets Torres away on goal. He rushes in to the box on his right foot and shapes to shoot on his left only to be denied a strike by a wonderful slide and tackle by Bassong. Needless to say, the corner comes to nothing and the half ends.
This missive comes from Stuart Hamilton, who is in bed in Japan: "Sadly, the nights I have spent with the cockerel have rarely gone to plan, often involving inflated expectations, early penetration but no staying power, some incredibly dextrous moments of skill but also some gutting heartbreak. I am hoping that the Japanese setting might make this a good one (VDV off. Wincing)." We've all been there, Stuart. Just relax, perhaps the cockerel will do you proud in the second half.
Regan Fitzgerald writes: "Gregg, there might not be a reserve to take Konchesky's place, but I believe Fabio Aurelio is sitting on the bench, ready and able (for today) to play left back. Given Konchesky's play today (and this season), there doesn't seem to be an excuse for Hodgson not making the change." I'd argue that Aurelio needs a couple more weeks to get fully fit, Regan. He only came back two weeks ago.
"Are Tottenham becoming Arsenal?" asks Ian Copestake, who presumably is going to answer his own question right after my next word. "Not only are they prone to intricate passing without (Bale aside) much of an end product, but their players are as frail as a party of pensioners who find themselves on a day out but have forgotten to bring an extra layer." There's something in that Ian, particularly given that Palacios has scuffed the ball around the park like I'd expect my 87-year-old grandad too today. If he isn't replaced by Huddlestone at half-time I'll spit my horrific cup of machine tea all over my keyboard.
"That Maxi miss was Liverpool in a moment," harrumphs Niall Mullen. "Dazzling leading man, pedestrian support cast. Like George Clooney in Coronation Street." That's a wonderful image, Niall. I'd give my right ear to see George Clooney in Corrie!
45 min: We're back. And Bassong starts the second half as he ended the first by chasing down Torres and making a wonderful tackle as the Spanish striker shaped to shoot inside the box just to the right of goal.
47 min: MBMer holds his hands up: "You might want to get ready to mop that horrific cup of machine tea off your keyboard," chides Adrian Cooper. "Palacious can't be replaced by Hudd, what with him being out for a couple of months injured. We're really going to miss him. After Van Der Vaart and Bale he's our most influential player." It takes a big man to admit that he had a brain freeze at half time.
49 min: Spurs win a corner on the right after a controlled attack. Bale swings it into the back post where Crouch hangs in the air and drops a header back into the six-yard box. Defoe tries to swivel and shoot on goal but he doesn't connect and Reina gathers the ball to his chest.
51 min: Header off the line! Defoe jinks his way up the right hand side and finds Lennon outside him. He swings a cross in deep towards Crouch. Reina comes off his line and only manages to paw the ball out to Bale, who hits a terrific shot that looks all the way a goal, but Meireles's bald skull rattles as it takes the hit and Liverpool escape.
54 min: Crouch gives away possession in Spurs' half, Maxi nicking the ball away to Meireles, who releases Ngog on the right. He barges past Bassong, but the Spurs defender does very well again to get a tackle in and concede a corner ... which is played in too deep. Surprised? No, didn't think so.
56 min: This match is not at all as I expected it to be. Everything is being done at 100mph. There's a terrific end-to-end feel to it.
58 min: Free-kick to Spurs 25 yards out in Gareth Bale country ...
58 min: Penalty! David Ngog blocks the free-kick with two arms in front of his face. That was cowardly by Ngog. Meireles is booked in the resulting melée ...
58 min: Defoe to take it ...
59 min: Missed! Defoe thumps it half-a-yard wide to the left of the goal. He tightened up as he hit that.
60 min: How many penalties have Spurs missed this season? Is it four?
61 min: "Are there any pubs actually like the Rovers Return in the UK?" asks Ian Copestake. "Are they not all kitted out with Sky surround sound and all day menus?" I don't know of any, Ian. They're all pretentious gastros round by mine. Readers? Kuyt takes a tumble in the Spurs box after a robust tackle by Gallas. It's a good block. The ball spills to Lucas and both he and Maxi tackle each other. Somehow Liverpool win a corner. Maxi takes it deep to the edge of the area where Kaboul clears.
Goal! Spurs 1-1 Liverpool (Skrtel og 65 min): Modric finds a shocking burst of pace (I didn't think he had it in him) to cut in from the left and drive to the line. He looks up and plays the ball into the corridor-of-uncertainty where Crouch waits to tap the ball in, only for Skrtel to slide in to block the ball and divert it into the goal. He couldn't really help it, mind. Crouch was a cert to score as Reina didn't look like he'd get to it.
67 min: This is a great match. Still can't predict which way it will go.
69 min: Bassong nudges Torres in the back on the left-hand side of the 18-yard box. Free-kick. Is there a pub like the Rovers return? I ask. "In Salford near my house," writes DD.
70 min: This is manic. Can everyone take a deep breath? Kuyt is felled in the box as he touches the ball away from Assou-Ekotto. At first glance it looks like a penalty but a second glance it looks like both of the players fouled each other. Impossible for Atkinson to call. Spurs then break and Defoe thumps a shot at goal from the edge of the box, which two-goal Skrtel blocks.
72 min: Spurs are the new England, reckons Ian Markey. What, with all the penalty misses and the like. Ngog takes a knock and allows my fingers a break.
73 min: Aurelio has come on for Ngog. Kuyt goes up alongside Torres, and Maxi goes over to the right. So still a 4-4-2.
75 min: Liverpool knock a few passes around neatly in midfield and try to take the pace out of the game. Meireles wastes all the good build-up play with a rushed cross into the box which he overhits.
76 min: Andy Gray reckons "15 minutes is a long time in this league?" Is he Doctor Who?
77 min: Aurelio's first touch is a hoofed clearance under no pressure. By and large today the standard of football served up by both sides has been impressive. There've been some very neat passing combinations (Palacios excluded).
79 min: If this was a game of chess both managers would be glaring at each other over the board and refusing to move.
80 min: Liverpool finally make a move forwards, which Meireles starts with a fantastically instinctive pass, and ends with a poorly executed flick towards Maxi in the box. It was nice interplay inbetween.
81 min: Reina flaps at a deep cross from Lennon. The ball drops to Crouch, who hits a first-time volley straight at Reina. He is in no-man's-land but does well to save.
82 min: "Sorry to say this, but you're wrong Gregg," says Peter Jørgensen. "Modric didn't find a shocking burst of pace. He was just up against Carragher, the slowest Liverpool legend bar Molby." Did you ever see Sean Dundee? He'd give them a slow run for their money. Oh, you said legend ...
83 min: Meireles hits a fizzing left-foot shot from 25 yards which misses by inches to Gomes's left post. The Spurs goalkeeper wouldn't have got there. That was a fantastic strike. He's impressed in central midfield for Liverpool.
85 min: Carragher has somehow knacked his left arm in a challenge with Peter Crouch. He's mouthing a million F-Words at Kyrgiakos, who is slow to get changed and just manages to get on to the pitch before Carragher is booked.
87 min: "The whole of Salford is looking forward to Rovers' return, innit?" giggles Steve Gurr. He's here all week etc and so on.
88 min: Glen Johnson flies into a tackle with Gareth Bale and sends him tumbling through the air. It's a dangerous tackle and Johnson is correctly booked.
89 min: The whole of White Hart Lane (and one of the layout guys in Guardian Towers) thinks Defoe has won it. But he is correctly flagged offside, by a yard, as he drives a Crouch flick-on into the roof of the net.
90 min: Maxi drives a yard wide after a robust challenge on Torres by Gomes results in a Liverpool penalty appeal. It wasn't a penalty in my opinion.
Goal! Spurs 2-1 Liverpool (Lennon 90+2min): This time White Hart Lane celebrates a legitimate goal. A crossfield pass by Bale lands at Lennon's feet. Konchesky is three yards off him and doesn't even attempt to react as he bursts inside and finishes smartly to Reina's left.
90+3 min: How Liverpool will regret those missed chances either side of half-time. Spurs weathered the storm, however, and have been rewarded for persevering.
90+4 min: Johnson slips and then tries to rugby tackle Lennon who races on to the free ball. He makes another jet-heeled run into the box, torments Konchesky to the left and right and then beats him again, before dragging his shot wide. Modric was inside him. He should have passed. Not that it matters. Spurs have won this.
Full-time: "Why are we (Liverpool fans) so down on Hodgson. Two words," writes Niall Mullen. "Paul bloody Konchesky." That's three words Niall.
"Why are you filtering the justifiably negative comments against Hodgson?" asks Navin Seeterram. Are you sat behind me Navin? How could you possibly know whether I am or not? "What irks Liverpool fans is the positive spin on Hodgson's mediocrity. An improved performance? Even Hodgson goes on about it being a results business. He looks defeated before the final whistle. Liverpool managers fight until the end. Koncheskey who barely reacts when Lennon goes through, later petulantly concedes a foul when we need to regain possession. Even Konchesky has given up. It seems only Hodgson and Konchesky are on the same page."
Full-time thoughts: Well, that was a fantastic match. End to end stuff throughout, sprinkled with some crisp passing moves and dramatic goalmouth action. Liverpool can feel aggrieved to come away with nothing. They played as well as they have all season (and I know they've hardly hit the heights, but still ...) and will regret missing crucial chances around half-time. As for Tottenham, they proved that having players who suit key positions (ie. pacey wingers) and strikers with attributes that compliment each other (Crouch = height, Defoe = pace) really does make a difference at this level. One thing I can say for sure is that Paul Konchesky will be ignored all the way home on the Liverpool bus after allowing Lennon such an easy run through on goal. Thanks for your emails. Goodnight.