Liverpool welcome Tottenham Hotspur to Anfield on Saturday evening, hoping to detail their title attempts and keep up the pressure on the Premier League’s top five.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have had a mixed bag of results this season, and there is no doubt that there are a number of issues that need to be looked at, particularly the teams overall consistency. Too often this season Liverpool have conceded cheap goals against teams they should be comfortably beating, thus losing momentum which has seen their chances of a top four finish diminished even more.
The Reds have dropped 15 points from winning positions – the highest in the league. Eleven of those have come under Klopp. The most recent example was the 3-2 defeat against Southampton before the break, where Liverpool squandered a 2 goal advantage before conceding a dramatic winner by the Saints, to deny them of any points and halt their run.
The decision to bring on Martin Skrtel for Dejan Lovren was the game changer for both sides. Where previously the Reds looked assured and competent and the back, they now looked lost and vulnerable, with the Slovakians defending gifting chances to Southampton, who pounced well to make Liverpool pay the ultimate price. It was a performance that fans are all too familiar with seeing from their side, which will shine one week against Manchester United in the Europa League before failing to see out a two goal lead the next.
Liverpool had been making good ground on the top four prior to the game, with Klopp visibly instilling confidence back into the players and a win would have seen them right up in the mix for the all-important Champions League spots. However, the costly lack of judgement from Martin Skrtel, who looks set to depart this summer, has left Liverpool in 9th, 7 points off the pace with a game in hand on Manchester City. A bridge too far?
Nonetheless, Jurgen Klopp has given fans plenty to look forward to next season and with the International break now over, Liverpool will be itching to build up momentum as we enter the final stages of the season. A win against Spurs would see Liverpool claim back to back victories at home for the first time since defeating Newcastle and QPR in April and May 2015.
Furthermore, it would put a real dent in their rivals’ hopes of winning the title this season and give the squad confidence heading into their clash with Borussia Dortmund in the knockout stages of the Europa League. Roberto Firmino will have a key part to play on Saturday evening, given his increasing importance to the side after a slow start to life in the English league. The Brazilian has scored seven goals in his last eight league games after netting just once in his previous seventeen appearances.
In his pre-match press conference, Klopp stated “When Tottenham play against Liverpool, it’s usually not a birthday party. It is a hard fight. The next day Leicester play Southampton – we know what can happen against Southampton. Arsenal should not stop dreaming as they have a few points to get and anything is possible. We are not involved so I am interested but we are involved tomorrow and that is important. It is unbelievable how strong Spurs are, everyone could see it in the England national team. That is good for Tottenham but not for us unfortunately.”
Spurs currently lie in 2nd place, five points adrift of Premier League leaders Leicester City. Pochettino’s side have impressed throughout the season and find themselves in a rather unlikely position heading into the business end of the campaign, with a chance at the title certainly within their grasp if Leicester are to falter. Credit must be given to the manager as well as the players for the season they have had. Harry Kane has played a crucial role as usual, scoring a total of 21 goals from 31 appearances and Liverpool will need to be alert for the entirety of the match to ensure that he doesn’t afflict similar damage at Anfield on Saturday.
Defensively, Spurs have also impressed with Eric Dier playing a key role at the heart of midfield, shielding the defence and goalkeeper to cut off the space and supply routes for the opposition while also spreading the play well to allow the likes of Dele Alli more freedom to roam forward. Their form will see them go into Saturday’s match at Anfield in high spirits, having conceded just 12 goals this season – the lowest in the league.
Furthermore, Spurs have recovered 18 points from losing positions, the most in the top flight and thus have the character and determination to fight back from behind if need be at Anfield. They have lost just one of their last 14 away league games and will be keen to retain that record and continue applying pressure on the league leaders. Therefore, Saturday’s match has high importance for both sides and thus promises to be an enthralling encounter.
In his pre-match press conference, Mauricio Pochettino said, “We need to give the credit to Leicester. They are too because they deserve to be. From the beginning of the season they were fantastic. We can’t take the credit from them. We are in a very good position but we cannot compare with another team. We need to fight. We have seven games and it is important to fight until the end of the season with the possibility to achieve good things. One is the possibility to win the title and the other is to finish in the top four, which is important to us.”
Head to Head
Liverpool are unbeaten in their last six matches against Tottenham, winning five of those games. The Reds have lost just one of their last 21 Premier League home games against Spurs (W14 D6). Liverpool have scored 15 goals and conceded just two in their last five encounters with Tottenham. However, they have produced nine own goals – more than any other fixture in the Premiership.
Roberto Firmino is a doubt after suffering a hamstring injury that looks that have ruled him out of Saturday’s crucial tie while a knee issue also sees Christian Benteke unable to take part. Divock Origi is fit despite missing international duty with Belgium with a thigh strain. England striker Daniel Sturridge should be available for selection for Jürgen Klopp after coming through the international fixtures unscathed. James Milner is back from suspension and could play a part while Alberto Moreno is available after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Erik Lamela is a doubt for Spurs having picked up an injury while on international duty while Jan Vertonghen is not yet fit enough to play a part, as he continues his comeback from injury. Toby Alderweireld is set to start despite missing Belgium’s game against Portugal through illness.
Simon Mignolet will no doubt retain his place in goal, having not many any catastrophic errors of late while Liverpool are likely to remain with the same back four they fielded against Southampton except with the inclusion of Alberto Moreno. The partnership of Sakho and Lovren will need to stay firm at Anfield to deal with the threat of Harry Kane coupled with the guile and energy of young Dele Alli, who came close to signing for Liverpool in the summer.
In midfield, I’d expect to see Jordan Henderson and Emre Can together to provide some energy to the side, spraying the passes to the creative players in front while offering protection and cover defensively as well. Both players have a tendency to make bursts forward and the added man could give the Reds an edge to push through a resolute defence and find a breakthrough.
Going forward, the absence of Roberto Firmino is a huge blow for Klopp’s side with the Brazilian in tantalising form of late. As a result, Jordon Ibe could receive a rare start but given the importance of the game I’d expect James Milner’s experience to be used to full advantage alongside Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho who will look to cut through any gaps that appear in Tottenham’s defence. Daniel Sturridge should start as long as he has recovered from international duty.
Prediction: Liverpool 1-1 Tottenham