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Monday, 6 February 2012

Monday Night Football - Liverpool & Spurs to duel it out

Monday night's game in the Premier League is between two of the most historied teams in English football as Liverpool host Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield in what is a big game for both clubs, as Spurs try to keep pace with the two Manchester sides at the top & Liverpool attempt to keep their Champions League qualification hopes alive. Spurs have a few injury worries to contend with, both Defoe & Adebayor have hamstring troubles meaning Louis Saha could start plus Rafael van der Vaart is only a hopeful starter with a slight calf strain, Liverpool meanwhile look to have a full squad to pick from after being fortunate with their tough schedule over the past two months.

(Jose Enrique has been outstanding at left back for Liverpool)

Liverpool are unbeaten at home in the league this year but have only won 4 times from their 11 games so far & that has largely been down to an inability to find the back of the net with any regularity, with just 14 home league goals they only have Everton, West Brom, QPR & Wigan behind them. Overall in the league the Reds have scored just 28 times which is the same as struggling Bolton & it is their watertight defence that deserves the plaudits for seeing them as high as 7th. Liverpool fans will point to the suspension of Luis Suarez as contributing but he's only actually missed 4 league games & has just 5 league goals this year, he has been great in some of his play at times but too often is wasteful in front of goal. The signings of Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam & Jordan Henderson were supposed to increase the chances created but the jury is still out on all 3 as to whether they are the sort of elite players that should be at a club with title aspirations. Re-signing Craig Bellamy has been the club's best attacking move & he leads the scoring charts with his 6 league goals (only joint 25th highest in league), at the other end of the pitch Jose Enrique has been outstanding & a definite upgrade from Konchesky or Insua, completing the back four & making them virtually impenetrable especially with the ever consistent Pepe Reina in behind - he almost certainly deserves to be considered the league's best between the sticks now.

(Scott Parker - one of Harry's best bits of business (along with his cheeky little Monaco account))

Spurs are just 8 points off Manchester City & have this game in hand but will surely find things tougher than when giving the Reds a 4-0 beating in the reverse fixture where Liverpool were down to 10 men before 30 minutes were up & ended up with just 9 on the field as Adam & Skrtel were given their marching orders. Spurs tend to share their goals out with Bale, Adebayor, Defoe & van der Vaart all having 7 or more in the league, it's just as well because with the departure of Pavlyuchenko they have just Defoe, the injury-ridden Louis Saha & the on-loan Adebayor as their only recognised orthodox strikers. Bale has continued to be one of the league's outstanding players & seems to be getting more consistency to his game, he's already topped his best ever league tally & has 9 goals & forms part of what may be the league's classiest midfield along with van der Vaart, Modric & great signing Scott Parker, they'll all need to be on top form to breach the Reds' defence as they've conceded just 8 in their 11 home games so far. There is also always the feeling that Defoe & Adebayor don't quite produce their best form in big games with Defoe especially seen as a flat track bully. The Spurs defence hasn't been so bad either & they've conceded only 25 goals in their 23 games, Ledley King has played a bit more regularly this year & Assou-Ekotto has improved & along with the imposing Kyle Walker they have some of the league's best full back compinations. The signing if Brad Friedel has been a great bit of business & the ex-Liverpool player will be at his most determined in this one.

(A winning combination? Bale & Friedel will be employing their talents at either end of the pitch)

Spurs just have the edge on recent league form with 3 wins, 1 draw & 1 loss in their last 5 (the loss was no disgrace against leaders City), Liverpool have 2 wins, 1 draw & 2 losses (again one against City whilst the other was their abject display away to Bolton, last weekend's games weren't tests for either with Spurs beating Wigan 3-1 & Liverpool beating Wolves 3-0. Spurs have had a couple of opportunities to rest a few players with games against Cheltenham & Watford in the FA cup whereas Liverpool have had a tough schedule in January with cup games against City & United plus league games with Stoke & again Man City meaning they must be feeling it a little physically. The big bonus for the home side is obviously Suarez's return from his punishment for racial abuse & the atmosphere should be extremely loud, Steven Gerrard is now getting back to full fitness & has had 4 goals since his return from long-term injury, it should be noted that 3 of those have come from the spot & neither player comes with a guarantee of goals. Liverpool deserve to be favourites but for a side that's only won 4 times at home this year it's difficult to see where odds of around Evens to win come from, Spurs can be backed at 7/4 on the draw no bet market & with us thinking the draw is such a strong possibility in a game where Dalglish will look to make his side as difficult to beat as usual this is where the value lies. World class players come to the fore in big games & a little bit of Gareth Bale 'Magic' could be the deciding factor, we've seen worse bets than the 1-0 Bale scorecast available at 66/1 with BetVictor.

Tottenham Hotspur to beat Liverpool in the draw no bet market at 7/4 (Bet365 & PaddyPower)
Gareth Bale to score first & Spurs to win 1-0 at 66/1 (BetVictor)

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