Tottenham Hotspur-Liverpool Preview
By CHRIS ALTRUDA
(AP) -- There are contenders, and there are pretenders.
And everyone knows who is who heading into Sunday's match at Anfield between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.
Relentless in attack, Liverpool (21-5-5) enter this match having won seven straight on the bounce and are unbeaten in their last 12 in league play (10-2-0). That surge has helped the Reds - who have a league-best 84 goals - remain one point behind front-running Chelsea in the Premier League race and ahead of the Blues on goal differential, though Manchester City lurk two points behind Liverpool with two matches in hand and have a superior goal differential over both.
Manager Brendan Rodgers' team scraped out a 2-1 win over Sunderland on Wednesday when Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge netted goals on either side of halftime. Liverpool sweated out a nervy finish after Sung-Yueng Ki pulled one back for the Black Cats in the final quarter-hour.
"We keep looking in front, that's always been the mantra for us," Rodgers told the team's official website, eager to move on from the latest victory and to facing the Spurs. "We just keep chalking up wins - seven wins in a row, which is incredible at this level with teams so competitive. We'll aim to keep that going forward."
Liverpool has not won eight straight in league play since a nine-match run from March 15-May 7, 2006.
Sturridge's goal was his 20th in the Premier League this season, putting him alongside Luis Suarez - who has 28 - as the first Liverpool tandem to strike for 20 in league play in the same season since Ian St John and Roger Hunt did so for the Reds in 1963-64. They are also only the third duo in Premier League history to accomplish the feat, joining Newcastle's Peter Beardsley and Andy Cole in 1993-94 and Chelsea's Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard in 2009-10.
"Him and Luis, I don't see them as a pair," Rodgers said when asked to explain about his strikers' success. "I know there is a lot written and said about them as a partnership, but I don't see them as that. They are both soloists. Long may it continue. Hopefully they can continue to score goals."
The lack of goals against the Premier League's elite is what has relegated Tottenham Hotspur (17-5-9) to also-rans in both the league race and likely the chase for the Champions League spots as well. Spurs have claimed just one point in seven matches against the league's current top four, but their play has been a shambles in those matches - getting outscored by a stunning 23-2 margin while giving up four or more goals in four of those losses.
One of those defeats was a 5-0 hammering by Liverpool at White Hart Lane on Dec. 15. The Reds already had a 2-0 lead thanks to first-half goals by Suarez and Henderson, but a direct red card issued to Paulinho in the 63rd minute let Liverpool run rampant, and they added three goals in the final 15 minutes to produce the humiliating score-line.
"We have to forget about that game," Paulinho insisted. "We have a chance to go there, play well and hopefully come back with a good result. We have seven games to go, we're trying to finish as high as possible and we have to try and win this game."
Spurs narrowly avoided a third consecutive loss on Sunday, rallying from an early two-goal deficit to beat Southampton 3-2 at White Hart Lane. Gylfi Sigurdsson's injury-time goal capped the unlikely rally and allowed the Lilywhites to continue harbouring dreams of a top-four finish despite being seven points behind Arsenal for fourth and needing to overtake Everton, who have a game in hand on Spurs.
"It takes real guts, character and spirit to do that and we showed that today," manager Tim Sherwood said. "Brilliant."
Liverpool have won the last two between the teams and last completed the double over Spurs in 2006-07.
Updated March 28, 2014