JAN VERTONGHEN believes former team-mate Luis Suarez is the only reason Tottenham will head to Anfield next weekend so far behind Liverpool.
Despite having played a game less, the Reds boast a nine-point lead over Spurs and there is a growing belief on Merseyside that they may well end the season with a first league title since 1990.
It is quite the change in fortunes from even a few months ago, when it looked like it would be a straight fight between the two sides for fourth place. Liverpool are looking for a seventh-straight league win against Sunderland tomorrow night ahead of next Sunday's clash with Spurs, and defender Vertonghen knows exactly what the difference between the sides has been.
"Suarez," he said. "Suarez is the reason for that. At the moment he is up there as one of the best strikers in the world. I think he is the difference between the teams.
"(Daniel) Sturridge obviously is doing well and those two are very hard to stop."
Vertonghen played alongside Suarez for several years at Ajax, winning the Dutch Cup together in 2010 and the Eredivisie crown the following year.
The Uruguayan moved to Anfield in 2011 and, after staying at the club following a summer of speculation, has netted 28 goals this term, helping to make Liverpool one of the most dangerous outfits on the continent.
"They are one of the best teams in the league and they show it every week," Vertonghen said.
"It is going to be very hard, especially at Anfield, and I hope we can play as we did last season because we did very well, not the result but the performance."
Spurs' Vertonghen netted a brace in a late 3-2 defeat at Anfield last term – a fate Southampton suffered at the hands of Spurs on Sunday. That win, coupled with Arsenal's 6-0 mauling at Chelsea, has seen the gap to the top four close to six points, and Vertonghen is not ruling out a late charge.
"We will try get as many points as possible and, in the end, we will see what we get," Vertonghen added.