If things had been different over the summer, Andre Villas-Boas and Brendan Rodgers could have reportedly been in the opposing dug-outs when Tottenham Hotspur host Liverpool at White Hart Lane on Wednesday such was the demand for their services, but as we reach December, the young bosses have both flattered to deceive.
When Spurs chairman Daniel Levy and Reds owner John W Henry decided to dispense with their veteran bosses Harry Redknapp and Kenny Dalglish at the season’s close, it was obvious from the get-go both wanted to appoint young, dynamic, modern coaches and 34-year-old Villas-Boas and Rodgers, 39, fitted the bill.
Liverpool swooped for Rodgers after a brilliant two years at Swansea City early on, leaving Levy to hand a second Premier League chance to the man who won a treble at Porto in his first season as a manager but who had endured a torrid time at Chelsea just months earlier.
Ignoring the slightly xenophobic attitude towards Villas-Boas from certain quarters, both appointments seemed sound, but Spurs and Liverpool have both underachieved this season as the inexperience of managers who have been in charge of just 92 Premier League games between them has shown.
Not that Rodgers has been handed an easy task – he’s been given a hospital pass of a job when you look at where the Anfield club are, where they aspire to be and the tools he has to do his job.
But that isn’t to say his lack of top-flight nous hasn’t proved costly on occasion – the debacle in the final days of the transfer window for a start – and learning on the job is not ideal for a club of Liverpool’s size and three wins from 13 league games is a disappointing return.
Similarly, things just don’t seem right at Tottenham and it is hard to put your finger on exactly why. Performances haven’t been terrible (with the odd exception such as the loss to Wigan at home) but neither have they been particularly good, with wins at home over Aston Villa and QPR perfunctory at best.
Meanwhile, they are out of the Capital One Cup and have only one Europa League win to show from five games.
There was, of course, a brilliant victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford but that has been a rare highlight of a campaign that has yet to truly ignite and has the crowd, if not openly questioning AVB, are at least sceptical of how things are going with Spurs 7th in the table, five points shy of their stated aim of fourth place.
So when the two managers go head-to-head at the Lane, it is with a sense that progress needs to be quicker. And this is a tough one to call: Spurs are 7/5 favourites, with Liverpool at 19/10 for an away win and the draw at 9/4, and given what I have seen so far this season, the stalemate looks like the sensible call.
Liverpool have only won three league games, but they have only lost three, too, and even if their eight-match unbeaten run contains five draws, they are proving difficult to beat.
Their only away defeat came to West Bromwich Albion on the opening day of the season (which all of a sudden doesn’t look like the awful result it did at the time) and since then, there has been a thumping win at Norwich and creditable draws at Everton and Chelsea.
And they are considerably tighter at the back, too: after conceding 12 goals in their first six league games, Liverpool have let in just four in their last seven, keeping four clean sheets, and they have it in them to frustrate a Tottenham side that has been frustrated more than once this season.
Spurs are actually in the middle of a pretty poor run. Their 3-1 win over West Ham United on Sunday was only their third in the last ten games, during which time they have lost five times, including a derby-day hammering by Arsenal. At home, they have won just four of their nine fixtures in all competitions and look there for the taking.
Of course, Liverpool don’t score enough goals for you to be backing them with any confidence – if Luis Suarez doesn’t score, nobody else seems to – so I think that the 9/4 on the draw looks like a good shout.