Tottenham v Liverpool: Spurs' hopes of breaking into the top-four rest on nullifying the unstoppable Luis Suarez
Andre Villas-Boas admits their season is firmly back on track if they secure victory when the Reds visit White Hart Lane on Sunday
Saturday 14 December 2013
Andre Villas-Boas knows Tottenham's top-four chances will take a big blow this weekend if they fail to shackle Liverpool striker Luis Suarez.
Tottenham stretched their unbeaten run to five matches in all competitions on Thursday when they beat Anzhi Makhachkala 4-1 in the Europa League.
Memories of the 6-0 drubbing at Manchester City have more or less faded, but Tottenham still have a lot of work to do if they are to gain Champions League qualification.
They will face one of their trickiest hurdles this weekend when Suarez comes to White Hart Lane having scored 15 goals in his last 11 matches.
With Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard both out through injury, the onus will fall on Suarez to provide the goals for the Reds again this weekend, and Villas-Boas hopes he can keep the former Ajax striker quiet.
"He's a player going through a wonderful individual moment," the Tottenham manager said.
"He's full of the confidence. We have to be aware of his strengths.
"He's a player that individually can solve the game.
"So we have to be aware not only of the people that feed him but the actual individual moments of brilliance that we saw this season, that have been so decisive for Liverpool.
"He's a key player for them and very difficult to stop."
Tottenham's own first-choice striker Roberto Soldado also goes in to the match full of confidence after scoring a hat-trick in midweek.
The Spaniard tucked away a tidy header and then produced a top-class finish before scoring his fourth penalty for Spurs.
Soldado oozed confidence after scoring his first and he swaggered his way through the rest of the match, demanding the ball and bouncing off defenders just like he did on a regular basis for Valencia.
Confidence is coursing through the veins of most of the Tottenham players at the moment following their recent unbeaten run.
Villas-Boas' position came under scrutiny a few weeks ago, but now he is glad that things are on the up.
"We have had a good recovery and a good response from the team from that setback," Villas-Boas said.
"If we manage to get a win against Liverpool we're completely back on track with the top teams.
"It's a big, big game for us - we won't be that far off, even if we don't win that game."
With Arsenal taking on Manchester City on Saturday, this weekend is a good chance for Spurs to climb into the top four from their current position of sixth.
If all goes to plan, Spurs could end the weekend joint third.
The Londoners beat Liverpool 4-0 at White Hart Lane last season, but they fell to a damaging 3-2 defeat at Anfield in the reverse fixture.
Liverpool have improved immeasurably since, thanks to Suarez's strike rate.
Midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson knows, therefore, that Sunday's game will be a good barometer for judging Spurs' top-four chances.
"Where we finish this season is more important, but Sunday will be a big test for us," the Iceland international said.
"It's a very good game for us to win and get three points and push us up the table."
Spurs will give late fitness tests to Danny Rose and Christian Eriksen before deciding whether to include them in the squad.
The duo returned to action following long-term toe and ankle injury layoffs in midweek, but Villas-Boas is aware that either player could suffer a relapse if they play in what is expected to be a tough and physical encounter.
The other selection dilemma Villas-Boas has is up front. Soldado is full of confidence following his hat-trick, but Jermain Defoe has started the last two league games and looked good at Sunderland.
With Jan Vertonghen sidelined because of an ankle injury, Etienne Capoue looks set to continue out of position at centre-half.
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