Liverpool hope history on their side to extend streak against Tottenham
Liverpool face Tottenham on Sunday, and both clubs will be under the microscope for different reasons.
The Reds haven't had such a great time of it in recent Premier League weeks, and if they drop more points, the gap between themselves and the top spot will become insurmountable.
Under Jurgen Klopp, their record against the best sides is usually excellent, yet there has been a slight dip recently after a 5-0 defeat at Manchester City and a drab 0-0 draw with United.
Attempts to explain away this change centred on Sadio Mane's red card at City and Jose Mourinho's tactics. It's more likely that Liverpool had a bizarre run of positive results against the elite and now have to settle for uncertainty, like everybody else.
Tottenham were thought to be suffering from the reverse situation. They were happy enough dealing with lower teams, but their one real challenge this season -- at home to Chelsea -- ended in defeat.
Earning a 1-1 draw away to Real Madrid in the Champions League, however, might give them the confidence to beat the best, even if Liverpool don't really count as such on current form.
Klopp's men also had a positive result in Europe, slamming seven goals past Maribor on Tuesday. They'll gain confidence from recent results against the Londoners, winning seven and drawing three of their previous 10 encounters.
It's a strange fixture, as Spurs won seven out of 10 meetings before that. The tide turned with a Luis Suarez-inspired 5-0 mauling at White Hart Lane in 2013 and hasn't gone back since.
Spurs will believe now is their best chance of winning this game, while Liverpool fans hope their team still has a knack of confounding expectations.
On current form, Mauricio Pochettino's team should win. He has done an excellent job there and, in many ways, Spurs are doing the things Liverpool were noted for in previous eras. Defensive discipline, a shrewd transfer strategy and a remarkable goal scorer (Harry Kane) were once Anfield specialties.
Indeed, the talisman striker was a feature of most Liverpool teams even before Bill Shankly began modernising the club and making it one of the biggest in the world.
Liverpool's last call on such a player was Suarez in 2014, but ever since -- through injury to Daniel Sturridge, poor signings and the tactics of Klopp -- the Reds have had to make do without 20 to 30 goals a season from one player.
The scoring workload needs to be shared. Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah both got two against Maribor, ending a drought for both players. But Tottenham provide a much sterner test.
Outsider responses to the Maribor result irked many. The general reaction that it wasn't a big deal presupposes that because many goals were scored against a largely unknown club, it should therefore be regarded as trivial.
For Liverpool fans, it's different. Not only were chances that went begging in recent weeks hitting the net, few visitors to Maribor come away with such a haul.
"Anyone could have done that," came the cries. "Funny, no one else has" was the response. It will be a difficult argument to sustain, however, if they return to profligate ways against Spurs.
It's not easy to measure the Mane effect on the team thus far. The cagey affair against United and the thrashing of Maribor weren't conclusive in judging how the Senegal forward's absence will be felt. Sunday could provide further evidence, whether positive or negative.
Eighth place is not great, although it can be seen as equal fifth, with four sides all on 13 points. The Reds have had their troubles at the back, too, and facing a player in such rampant form as Kane will not be good for the nerves.
In fairness, Spurs won't relish facing Liverpool, either. Klopp's men create chances in every match, bar the usually grim grudge match with United.
Should Firmino & Co. revert back to taking those opportunities, Pochettino will know his team can't take too many liberties, no matter how good their current form is.
The wide-open spaces of Wembley would have been food and drink to a fast player like Mane, but Liverpool can still cause problems.
Spurs sometimes struggle at their temporary home because most visitors regard it as historically one of the great stadiums of the world and perhaps raise their game accordingly. Even Liverpool can't regard it as commonplace because they don't go there often.
Perhaps the sight of his old North London rivals might even light a fire under Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, especially after his goal against Maribor provided a bit of light in an otherwise murky start to his Anfield career.
This should be a classic, but that was said last week before the United washout. A 0-0 draw might even suit Liverpool better this time around, but it's not really their style, is it?
Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.