If you miss the Premier League during the international breaks it will have seemed like a long wait to get back to domestic action, but a match like the one at tea time on Saturday is sure to make up for it. It wouldn’t have been beyond the realms of possibility for the Game between Liverpool and Spurs to be a battle for a top four position at this stage of the season, but it is the latter team who look destined for Champions League football, while Liverpool have a job on their hands to even qualify for the Europa League via league position.
Spurs are also the most likely side to burst the Leicester City bubble at the top of the Premier League table, trailing the Foxes as they do by just five points, but this will be a stern examination of their title credentials. Liverpool of course have that immense match-up with Jurgen Klopp’s former side Borussia Dortmund to look forward to in the Europa, with potential Champions League football on offer if they can go all they way, but that will not entice them enough to take their eye off the ball here, and the optimistic among ‘Pool fans will still fancy their chances of getting involved in the battle for fourth place.
Both Mauricio Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp have brought a high energy brand of football to their respective teams, and that makes this a very interesting tactical battle in which the high press should feature prominently.
A Pressing Game
Liverpool showed their ability to force mistakes and stifle the oppositions creativity from the back with forward-thinking play against Manchester United recently in the Europa League, a tactic which saw them forge into what turned out to be an unassailable 2-0 lead in the tie. They were able to play a much more pragmatic counter-attacking game in the return leg at Old Trafford, and with the injuries that currently beset the squad there is a case to suggest it could be a similar performance on Saturday. Klopp has doubts over Benteke, Origi and Firminho, which almost certainly means Daniel Sturridge will start as a lone striker with the likes of Lallana, Milner and Coutinho in support.
Spurs have made the most of the solid pairing that Dembele and Dier provide in midfield to allow Kane, Alli, Eriksen and Lamela to push forward at every opportunity, and they have been dominant in recent matches against the likes of Bournemouth and Aston Villa, although they’ve also been beaten by West Ham and held to a draw at White Hart Lane by Arsenal. Both sides like to play from the back, but as the graphic below shows, Liverpool misplaced 8 of 84 passes in their own defensive third in their last outing at Southampton.
This is something that Pochettino will look to exploit, and the England pair of Alli and Kane in particular will be tasked with putting the unorthodox Sakho under pressure. By way of comparison, Spurs played more passes, more successfully in their own defensive third (115 of 120) at home to Bournemouth in their last Premier League game:
Admittedly this was against a Bournemouth team that was happy to sit back, but with Alderweireld, Wimmer and Dier in the centre of the Spurs rearguard they are arguably stronger in that department.
A Case for the Defence
Much will be made of the attacking prowess of both sides in the build-up to this match, but it’s worth remembering that they played out a 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane back in October, and it could be the team that performs best at the back on Saturday that eventually wins out. One suspects that Spurs are better equipped in defence, but with Liverpool shorn of attacking options they may have more of a focus on the shape and protection provided by the likes of Can, Henderson and Milner in midfield.
While Spurs have only been beaten twice on their travels this season, they have a terrible record at Anfield where they’ve managed just one win in the last sixteen attempts – a 2-0 victory in 2011. Liverpool have struggled at home this term winning just five of their 13 fixtures on Merseyside, but they’ve only been defeated three times there since the season began, and have beaten Spurs on their last three visits.
That 0-0 draw between the two in October was the first time this fixture had finished goalless since 2012, with the last six games producing at least three goals. On balance of form and league position many will want to back Spurs to come away with three points, but it’s hard to look last the poor record they have at Anfield and it’s worth remembering that Liverpool’s last two home games have been 2-0 and 3-0 wins against Manchester United and Manchester City.
Both teams will look to press the opposition high up the pitch and both teams are capable of scoring goals, Whoever defends better on the day could well come out on top, but the bet that stands out most is both teams to score at -130 with 888Sport and Unibet.
With so much at stake at this late stage of the league campaign, there is little value for either side in settling for a point, and it promises to be a game to sit back and enjoy as the sparks fly.
Liverpool v Spurs – Both teams to score
Saturday 2nd April, 17:30 GMT
*Stats from fourfourtwo.com