If Red Star Belgrade at home was the perfect fixture for Tottenham in their current state, Liverpool away is the polar opposite.
Jurgen Klopp’s side might have dropped their first points in the Premier League this season against Manchester United last time out, but they remain imposing at Anfield where they haven’t been beaten in the league since April 2017 – a staggering run of 44 games.
Not many would bet on Spurs ending that dominance on Sunday afternoon.
Although Red Star were dispatched 5-0 in a cathartic manner earlier this week, their wide-open welcoming nature meant the confidence taken was tempered by circumstances.
Instead, the looming failures of previous weeks, and the questions they pose, continue to race around Mauricio Pochettino’s brain.
How can he summon a revival from his side, who have been embarrassed by Colchester in the League Cup, flattened by Bayern Munich in the Champions League and outclassed by Brighton in the Premier League in the last month?
Of course a trip to face the league leaders, who have amassed over twice the number of points after nine games, have lost just one of the last 15 meetings between the two sides and inflicted the Champions League final defeat from which the current difficulties began, is not be the ideal opportunity to kick-start a new plan of action.
But they have got to start somewhere in order to shift their current malaise.
Tuesday night’s performance was notable mainly for Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Erik Lamela filling their boots with goals and assists. But it was also instructive in another aspect.
Pochettino made four changes for the Champions League game, leaving out Christian Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld and Danny Rose – three players who have come close to leaving the club before and are likely to depart at the end of the campaign.
Jan Vertonghen, who is in the last year of his contract and in a similar boat, did play, but the rest of the line-up had a fresher look.
Summer signing Tanguy Ndombele ran the midfield, providing two assists. Ben Davies patrolled the left flank. Davinson Sanchez started at centre-back. Giovani Lo Celso and Juan Foyth appeared from the bench.
Pochettino has been at Tottenham for five and a half years. His success has owed a great deal to the likes of Eriksen, Alderweireld and Vertonghen – and yet their collective drops in performance have been a key factor in Spurs’ dismal form since the disappointment of May’s Champions League final defeat.
The Argentine manager doesn’t have a bottomless squad of talent to choose from, but he does have alternative options. With Kane and Son still motivated up front, Ndombele more settled in a 4-2-3-1 formation and Dele Alli beginning to find his feet, he has the building blocks towards something more concrete.
Liverpool is a tough first act, but November appears to provide more fertile ground on which Spurs can begin to turn over a new leaf.
Main image credit: Getty Images