Rough LFC road starts at White Hart Lane

Posted by David Usher

The occasional, painful bump in the road aside, by and large Liverpool's season has gone quite well to date and they currently sit -- somewhat surprisingly perhaps -- second in the table. Now is where the hard work begins, however, as the Reds embark on a succession of difficult away games that may well determine whether they are still within touching distance of the leaders when the new year rolls around.

Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea all lie in wait for the Redmen, starting Sunday with Spurs. Three huge games for Liverpool and a serious test of their top-four credentials.

-Fitch: Spurs need to starting beating sides like LFC

To date, Manchester United are the only side in the current top 10 that Liverpool have beaten. Against the rest of the top half, Liverpool drew at Everton, Swansea and Newcastle, and they've lost away at Arsenal and at home to Southampton. They've beaten up on the bottom half though, with the exception of Hull City, of course.

It was a similar story last season, too. It wasn't until they edged Spurs in a thrilling game at Anfield in March that Liverpool finally managed to beat a side above them in the table. So given their somewhat worrying form against the better sides in the Premier League, what would be an acceptable total for Liverpool from these three taxing away fixtures?

It's very difficult to say, as these games would be taxing enough even if Brendan Rodgers had his best side available. Having to cope without Daniel Sturridge, Jose Enrique and Steven Gerrard makes things incredibly tough, and if Liverpool were to suffer three defeats it would not be entirely unexpected, nor would it be completely unacceptable (assuming they did not get completely embarrassed in any of the games, of course). It would, however, be disappointing.

The loss at Arsenal was entirely predictable, for example, but still hurt. It was never going to define Liverpool's season, and it was little more than collateral damage, as you have to budget for results like that away at the better teams.

I've been the banging the drum all season for Liverpool winning the games they should win and to not worry too much if they lose the difficult fixtures. Anything gained from trips to the other top clubs is a bonus -- Liverpool will only get to where they need to be by winning the games they are supposed to, and so far they've done a fine job of that.

Losing at Hull threw a bit of a spanner in the works, though. Having failed to pick up three points in that fixture, Liverpool could really do with winning one of these next three away fixtures to get back on course. Are they capable? Definitely. Will they do it? I believe they will, although the odds are certainly against it. Which one will they win? I have no idea -- this Liverpool side is just too unpredictable, and what's more, so are most of the other sides in the Premier League.

On paper, Sunday's trip to White Hart Lane would appear to be Liverpool's best opportunity to pick up a win. Let's face it, Manchester City look close to invincible at home, while Jose Mourinho is yet to lose a home league game in either spell he's had as Chelsea manager.

You could argue that simply means he's due a loss sometime soon, and Liverpool do tend to match up well with Chelsea. Most games between the two are close, and the Reds are certainly capable of winning at Stamford Bridge, but Spurs looks to be a less-daunting fixture at this moment.

Andre Villas-Boas has certainly had his problems this season and appeared to be under a bit of pressure a couple of weeks ago after Spurs were humiliated at the Etihad. Yes, Manchester City can be a devastating force at home, but no self-respecting "top side" should be losing 6-0 to anybody.

Understandably, questions were being asked of the young Tottenham manager, but Spurs have responded well to that setback, winning four and drawing one in all competitions since that mauling by City. Spurs go into the Liverpool game full of confidence after a good midweek display in the Europa League, and for all their troubles adjusting to life after Gareth Bale, they are only three points out of second spot.

It's a difficult game for Liverpool, but it's no walk in the park for Spurs either, let's not forget. Liverpool's tails are up following thumping wins over Norwich City and West Ham United, but White Hart Lane is not a happy place for the Merseysiders. Spurs have won the past five at home against Liverpool, which represents the Reds' worst record at any stadium in that time period.

It's a strange one. While the Londoners have been finishing above Liverpool in recent years, you'd have to say that over those five years there's generally not been a great deal of difference between the sides. Liverpool's record at Old Trafford is almost as bad (one win and four defeats), but Manchester United have generally been a much better side than Liverpool, so that is to be expected. The Reds' dreadful record at White Hart Lane is more difficult to explain.

Four of those losses were by a goal, with Spurs running out 2-1 winners on each occasion. The one exception was a freak 4-0 result in which Liverpool ended up with nine men after two players were sent off. Everything points to this being another close affair between very evenly matched sides.

Home advantage and Liverpool's poor record in North London would appear to tip the scales in the balance of Spurs, but -- as ever -- the Luis Suarez factor has to be taken into account. The Uruguayan is such a special player that Liverpool are capable of winning anywhere with him in the side. There are days when he is so incredibly good that Liverpool could probably grab 10 fellas out of the crowd, line them up behind Suarez and still win the game. Against Norwich anyway.

With 15 goals in just 10 Premier League games this season, Suarez is the most feared player in the land right now. Granted, most of those goals (12 to be exact) have come at Anfield, and neither Suarez nor Liverpool have been anywhere near as effective away from home, but that could change at any moment and Rodgers will be hoping that moment is Sunday. If it isn't, it could be a very difficult few weeks for Liverpool.

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