If you are a Premier League football club, it must be hard to know what to do with yourselves in international breaks. About three lads turn up to training, and they’re the rubbish ones, to be trained by the assistant as the manager goes on a “scouting trip” to Dubai. It’s the people who have to write pieces for the club websites I feel sorry for: “Monday 25th March. Alberto Moreno shows off his new wash bag.”
Tottenham Hotspur took the opportunity to do a test event of the stadium that they were meant to move into eight months ago. There were actual tears from grown adult Spurs fans, in what seems a massively emotional response to a hugely over-priced building where nothing had happened yet. Although they might have just remembered how much they paid for a season ticket the previous summer for the first season in the new ground, only to not see it until the end of March.
Nearly 30,000 people turned up to have a look and also watch Tottenham’s U18s, who normally play in front of 1% of that and must have been absolutely shitting themselves. The video of them walking out looks like the mascots have all gone out early and forgot to wait for the footballers. But J’Neil Bennett became the first person who wasn’t wearing a hardhat and high viz jacket to score at the new, imaginatively titled Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, so that’s nice for him, isn’t it?
The adult footballers will have to wait until April to play at the new ground, which has presumably been named so it can be changed to a sponsor when they convince one that it is definitely going to open. First, though, they come to Anfield, a stadium which is approximately 135 years older, to face Liverpool, who are 15 points ahead of them, which is mad as I’m sure both teams were in a title race a month ago. What on earth have Spurs been up to?
It should be said that Liverpool being so far ahead of Spurs at any stage of the season is a rare thing in the last 10 years. They don’t have the trophies to show for it, but generally Spurs have outperformed Liverpool, consistently finishing above The Reds whilst spending less but being smarter. Really, they’ve shown Liverpool up.
On the pitch the teams are fairly similar. High-pressing sides set up by impressive forward-thinking managers who want to play attacking football. Where Liverpool seem to have been able to leapfrog Spurs is finally making their spending count. Spurs have a talented squad, but it always seems just one or two short. What Mauricio Pochettino would give to be able to break the world record for a goalkeeper or sign Xherdan Shaqiri and keep him as an impact sub, as Liverpool did last summer. Instead Spurs signed no one, and the manager had to try and get more out of existing stars and emerging talent.
How long Spurs are able to retain Pochettino as they inevitably fall away at the business end of the season again remains to be seen. But first there is a game that has produced some classics over the years, not least last season where the teams drew 2-2 in a game where Mo Salah thought he’d won it with a wonder goal only for the referee to keep giving Tottenham penalties.
Earlier in the season Liverpool won away(ish) at Spurs, and they’ll be hoping for a repeat of that rather than a draw that would probably see them knocked off the top spot. Unless Fulham can do us a favour, of course. Well, you can only dream.