Saturday 11th February 2017- 17:30- BT Sport 1HD
The biggest game of the weekend sees 2nd place, and title chasing, Tottenham travel to Anfield to take on a Liverpool side that have yet to win in the league this calendar year. Despite Liverpool’s poor form, and Spurs excellent run, the 2 sides are only separated by 4 points. A win will of course take Spurs 7 points of Liverpool, and will keep the pressure on Chelsea, who play away at Burnley on Sunday. For Liverpool, a victory could kick start their season and will lift them, albeit temporarily depending on Man City’s result, back into the top 4.
Liverpool’s nightmare start to 2017 continued last weekend, when they lost 2-0 to a resurgent Hull side. Despite dominating possession and having more shots on goal, Liverpool simply weren’t up for the game, and poor finishing cost them dearly. A drastic turnaround is needed sooner rather than later to prevent the Reds from falling further behind in the race for the top four, which is now their only realistic goal this season.
Perhaps the only saving grace heading into this weekend’s match is that Liverpool have generally raised their game when the big boys have come to visit, and they still boast the best points-per-game record in the top-six mini-league this season having remained unbeaten in their seven outings so far.
The most recent of those saw them hold leaders Chelsea to a 1-1 draw – a satisfactory result on its own but one that also extended Liverpool’s winless home run to five matches – their longest since 2012. However, they have also not lost to Spurs in their last 8 meetings, and Spurs haven’t won at Anfield in the league since 2011.
In his pre-match press conference, Jurgen Klopp implored his side, to put recent results behind them, and to step up against Spurs.
“Against a team like Tottenham we need everything we have got,” Klopp said. “It’s a strong opponent. If we play like we did in the first half against Hull, no chance, if we play like we did in the second half, better chance, but we should play better.”
The Reds do remain the league’s joint top-scorers, but they have now conceded 30 times in their 24 outings this season, giving them the worst defensive record in the top eight.
Klopp has taken full responsibility for the recent run of results, which have been so poor that the German’s future has even been questioned. Currently Klopp has an identical record to Brendan Rodgers after 54 league games in charge – 26 wins, 16 draws and 12 defeats – Klopp is increasingly in need of a response to his first testing patch as Liverpool boss.
Klopp will also have to figure out a way to combat a Spurs side that play a very similar pressing game to Liverpool. That should make for an interesting match-up. Spurs will harry Liverpool high up the pitch, would could make it difficult for the hosts to play out from the back, as they like to do. Sadio Mane will also be expected to help restore an attacking verve to Liverpool’s front line.
Liverpool will assess Dejan Lovren, who missed the defeat at Hull with a knee injury, and fellow centre-back Ragnar Klavan, who has been unwell. Adam Lallana, who has a minor Achilles problem, will also be given the run over before the game. Klopp may also make changes to his back lie, given the fact they haven’t won in 5 league games.
While Spurs defence is the meanest in the league, having only conceded only 16 times this season, to put that into perspective Liverpool have conceded almost twice as many with 30 goals in the back of their net. However, one of the reasons there not further up the table is their form going forward. Their 46 goals scored is the lowest in the top five, while their only goal in their past two league games came from the penalty spot, during their 1-0 win over Middlesbrough. Without Harry Kane, and without spot kicks, they would really be in trouble.
So much of what is good about Spurs is typified by Kane – work ethic, efficiency and passion in abundance. But in their last four games, Tottenham have only managed two goals not scored by Kane, and he assisted one of those, so keep him quiet and they may struggle.
Another big reason for the big gap between Spurs and Chelsea has been their away form this season. No team has drawn more away games in the Premier League this season, with Spurs having won just four of their 12 league games on their travels – the worst record out of any team in the top six.
Back-to-back 4-1 wins over Southampton and Watford either side of the New Year are Tottenham’s only triumphs from their last 12 away games in all competitions – a run which stretches back to September and includes a defeat at Anfield, in the EFL cup fourth round.
Mauricio Pochettino has never beaten Liverpool during his time in charge of Spurs, drawing three and losing three of his six meetings, although he did win two of his three games against the Reds while at Southampton. Pochettino was also very complimentary of Liverpool’s team and squad during his pre-match press conference:
“They are not on a good run but Liverpool have very good players, for me it is one of the best squads, not only in England but also in Europe.”
Tottenham will be without defenders Danny Rose, and Jan Vertonghen on Saturday, with knee and ankle problems respectively. Georges-Kevin N’Koudou is also out with a knee injury. Erik Lamela is still struggling with pain in his hip but Kieran Trippier is available again after overcoming an injury to his ankle.
By Rich Lee @RichLee2202