Tottenham face an immense challenge in their return to Premier League action after an incredibly challenging and disjointed fortnight.
Ideally, when playing one of the world’s best sides, everything is running smoothly, confidence is sky high and everyone is fully fit. That was the case, aside from a couple of injuries and a single bout of illness, two weeks ago when Tottenham assuredly went about their business against Norwich.
To say a lot has happened since then is the understatement of the year. Ravaged by Covid-19, Spurs missed three matches — two of which in the Premier League — and were forced to close their training facility. Liverpool also has a few Covid-19 related issues to deal with, but nothing compared to what Antonio Conte has been forced to contend with.
Just as momentum and team cohesion was moving in the right direction, progress halted like a speeding lorry hitting a brick wall. Conte knows the immensity of the challenge that lies ahead this afternoon at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Italian will invariably be forced to start with a few fringe players he doesn’t fully trust, which, against a side of Liverpool’s pedigree, can have disastrous results.
On the other hand, the colossal test ahead provides Spurs with an opportunity to surprise some people. Some players are in last-chance-saloon territory, and might only have this match to prove they deserve to be a part of Tottenham’s future under Conte’s reign. If they don’t make this opportunity count, there won’t — as long as everyone impacted by Covid-19 recovers quickly — be further chances.
In truth, nobody really knows what to expect tomorrow, which is why I’m sure many of us are feeling, in equal measure, excited, nervous and apprehensive. Spurs have four matches in hand on Arsenal, who, after a begrudgingly accomplished week, currently hold fourth place. Tottenham, if they win three of four, will leapfrog their bitter rivals and take over the final Champions League spot.
Matches in hand, though, mean nothing if you don’t win them. Few people are expecting Tottenham, after an incredibly adverse and incoherent two weeks, to upend Liverpool. A draw would be an outstanding result, an outcome many are pegging as the best case scenario.
Nothing is known until Tottenham take the pitch and do their utmost to derail Liverpool’s high-powered locomotive. And that’s the beauty of football. With a manager of Conte’s intelligence, aptitude and adaptability, the adage that anything is possible finally feels feasible in north London.