Spurs need to start beating sides like Liverpool

Posted by Dan Fitch

As those of you kind enough to read these columns regularly will know, I’m no fan of the Europa League. Yet even I was entertained by Spurs’ 4-1 thrashing of Anzhi on Thursday.

No one should get too carried away with a victory over a side that has not won a single game in the Russian league this season. But sometimes a big win over a lesser team can raise a guilty smile.

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The game will certainly have raised the confidence of Roberto Soldado, who grabbed a hat trick. The big selection question ahead of Sunday's game against Liverpool is now whether Soldado or Jermain Defoe starts.

Andre Villas-Boas was coy on the subject, but it surely has to be Soldado. I would think this even if Soldado had not scored. Defoe has never been the man to trust in games against the best opposition.

What’s more, Spurs can’t afford for Soldado to be anything less than a success. They’ve signed a striker whose resale value drops with every passing month. If they’re to get any value from the deal, they need to get him scoring goals.

Thursday night showed the blueprint. His first was a fine glancing header from a crossed free kick. Tottenham have not put in enough crosses this season, but with the recent success of Aaron Lennon on the right -- and Thursday night’s performance by Andros Townsend on his natural left -- this could change. The return of Danny Rose at left-back will also help.

Soldado’s second goal came from a smart ball from Erik Lamela as he cut in from the right. It was an example of the other type of chance the side needs to create for him more frequently.

The Spanish international thrives off little angled passes into space. For them to be delivered effectively, he needs players to get themselves near him. Too often, he has looked isolated this season.

I would love to say that Christian Eriksen will make his return to the side Sunday to perform that role. But he looked some way off fitness Thursday and is probably more likely to start on the bench. A midfield trio of Sandro, Paulinho and Lewis Holtby seems the likeliest option.

On the wings, I would equally love to see Townsend on the left and Lennon on the right, yet I expect we’ll see an inverted winger on the left.

The defence is more of an issue and simply a case of playing which central defenders are fit. On the subject of injuries, it is a positive that Liverpool are missing a few of their better players, with Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge both out. It could prove the right time to play them, though Luis Suarez is good enough to win the game on his own and Spurs can no longer rely on Jamie Carragher to score them an own goal.

Yet Tottenham have a good record against Liverpool in recent seasons, and it’s important they win this one. Not only would a victory take the team level on points with Brendan Rodgers' side, but it would also give Spurs confidence. So far this season, they have drawn with Chelsea, Everton and Manchester United and lost to Arsenal, Manchester City and Newcastle.

If Tottenham want to finish in the top four, they really need to start winning some of these games. They’re still in contention only because the sides around them have dropped silly points to weaker sides.

That won’t last forever. Now is the time for Spurs to turn around their home form and give their fans a lovely present to take them into Christmas.

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