Spurs boss questions whether Liverpool can handle pressure of title run-in
14:25 28 March 2014
Tim Sherwood says Liverpool are strong contenders to win the title, but he has questioned whether the Reds have the experience to hold their nerve in the run-in.
Spurs’ head coach captained Blackburn Rovers when they won the Premier League crown in 1995.
And, as he prepares to take the Lilywhites to Anfield on Sunday, he has reservations about whether Brendan Rodgers’ side will be able to add their names to the trophy.
“I think they have a real chance,” he said. “It all depends on how they can hold their nerve, how many players they’ve got within their squad who have done it previously.
“Obviously Manchester City and Chelsea would have to be favourites because of the players they’ve got who have actually crossed that line and done it previously.
“But Liverpool have got from seventh last year and now they must be believing, with eight or nine games left, that they can actually win this Premier League title.
“I’d still tip Man City. They have got that firepower, as well as Liverpool have. It just boils down to whether Liverpool can cope in the run-in, because it is nothing like anything else.
“Whatever has gone before, now that you guys [in 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 and you’re going out there and the expectancy is on you.
“I know that myself from doing it. At one stage we were well clear with a game in hand when we won the title [at Blackburn]. We managed to scrape through at the last. We were shot and we managed to get over the line.
“People started talking about us as title winners and that is coming from a side who finished fourth and then second and then first - not from seventh to first. It will be very interesting to see how they cope with it.
Sherwood added: “The pressure’s on Liverpool, and you sensed it a little bit the other night, when Sunderland got back into the game.
“After winning so many titles in their time they’re very close, one point off the top. They’re absolutely flying, they’ve got a strike partnership who are the best the Premier League has seen for a very long time, and they’ve given themselves a real chance.
“Now they have to believe that they’ve got something there that might fall through their grasp and might slip away, and believe me that’s a really bad feeling to have, because perhaps you don’t play with the freedom that you normally played with earlier on in the season.”
Sherwood says Anfield was one of his favourite away days as a player, and he is looking forward to being in the dug-out this weekend.
“I’ve spoken to a few of the players today and they’ve never been to Anfield to play,” he said. “Certainly when I was growing up I thought the game was invented by Liverpool, it was the home of football. They never lost anything.
“When I played at Watford and Norwich, you’d go there and pull up on the bus and they were very respectful fans, never rude gestures. They’d just hold up their fingers to say ‘it’s going to be three’ or ‘it’s going to be five today’ and you’d just nod and say ‘yeah we’ll take three’. That was the way it was.
“It was a fantastic atmosphere there, it always has been and it’s one I’ve always loved to go and play in.
“We don’t want it to be three or five on Sunday, we want to go there and win. It would be huge because it would give us a massive platform to build on in the remaining six games. If we get maximum points in all of our remaining games I think we will be very close to fourth.”
Sherwood admits Tottenham have it all to do if they are to stop Liverpool’s deadly strike duo of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, but he says the Reds’ less impressive defensive record provides plenty of cause for optimism.
“To be honest, I’ve not watched them that closely,” he said. “I mean, I’ve been looking at their results and where they are in the division.
“Obviously Suarez and Sturridge make an awful lot of difference. They have scored 48 goals together [in the league], which is a huge return for a strike partnership.
“They’ve outscored everyone in the division, even Man City, and it’s hard to believe that is possible with the strike options that Man City have.
“We’re aware of that but they do concede goals - that is one positive we can look at. I’m not sure how many clean sheets they’ve kept, but they can leak goals because they throw everything forwards.
“They can be caught on the counter-attack but we will be very respectful of the threats they have coming forwards - but we need to try and impose ourselves on them at some stage of the game.
Sherwood added: “The early stages are crucial in every game but I always say it is how you finish, not how you start. We proved that last week [against Southampton]. I say that, but I would love to score first!
“You need to stay in the game as long as you can, especially at Anfield. The expectation there is that they will roll us over, because the fans would look at the game at the Lane [when Liverpool 5-0 in December] and see how comfortable it was for Liverpool.
“It’s up to us to stay in the game as long as possible and we hope they throw the kitchen sink at us and we can catch them on the counter-attack – that’s what we will look to do.”
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