Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur face a critical Premier League showdown at Anfield Sunday, with Liverpool looking at going top of the table if they can defeat Spurs for the second time this season. At the same time, the North London side needs a victory to keep alive any chance of returning to Champions League football for the first time since the 2010/11 campaign — and only the third time the club would compete for a European Championship in its 131-year history.
For Liverpool, sitting just a single point behind league leaders Chelsea who were shocked 1-0 by Crystal Palace Saturday, a Premier League title would be a first for the storied side since English football’s First Division broke off and reorganized as its own league in 1992.
The last top-level title for Liverpool came in the old First Division in 1990.
Liverpool FC traveled to White Hart Land on December 15 and humiliated Spurs, who spent over £100 million — about $165 million — to overhaul their team in the 2013 summer transfer window, by a shocking 5-0 tally. The crushing defeat was the last gasp for then-manager Andre Villas-Boas, who was sacked immediately afterward.
His replacement, first-time manager Tim Sherwood, tried to get into the collective head of the Liverpool squad Friday, not-so-subtly suggesting that Liverpool FC would crack under the pressure of a tight title race.
“It just boils down to whether Liverpool can cope in the run-in because it is nothing like anything else,” Sherwood said, recalling the Blackburn side he captained as a player in 1995, which defeated Liverpool for the trophy — but lost three of its final six games as the pressure mounted.
“Whatever has gone before, now the media have been talking about them in terms of winning the title it makes a hell of a lot of difference when you’re warming up,” Sherwood said. “You’re going out there and the expectancy is on you. I know that myself from doing it.”
Liverpool FC manager Brendan Rodgers was having none of it, taking a shot across Spurs’ bow in retaliation.
“I don’t think we are under pressure,” the Liverpool FC supremo said. “Probably not as much as a team that spent £100m and must have been hoping to challenge for the league this season.”
But Spurs must face the fact that Rodgers’ comment hurts because it’s true. Despite the nine-figure spending spree, the Tottenham side not only sit an all-but insurmountable 13 points off the top with seven matches remaining on their fixture list — they are currently in sixth place, eight points behind fourth-place Arsenal for the final Champions League qualifying slot.
Spurs are even one point behind Everton, who as fifth-place finishers would take a position in the Europa League, the second-tier European competition.
Everton take on the almost certainly relegation-bound, last place Fulham Sunday, a game they are likely to win, putting added pressure on Sherwood and Spurs to keep pace.
Kickoff at Anfield is set for 4 pm local time in Liverpool. United States-based fans can catch the Liverpool FC vs. Tottenham Hotspur showdown live on NBC Sports Network at 11 am Eastern Time and 8 am Pacific Sunday morning, March 30, or via live streaming on line video through the NBC Sports Live Extra app.