Tottenham and Liverpool’s Premier League clash this weekend looks set to be a fascinating game. Both teams employ an energetic style of attacking football that should be further amplified by the vast Wembley pitch, and both managers will want a win over a key top six rival. Tottenham haven’t actually beaten Liverpool in their last ten attempts across all competitions, a run stemming back to 2012. But will we see better fortune for the Lilywhites this time around? This week’s experts, Snack Media’s very own Spurs fan Martin Crawford and Live4Liverpool editor George Dagless, share their thoughts on how this one will pan out…
Arguably Tottenham’s two best performances this season have come in Europe using counter-attacking tactics. Considering Liverpool are a naturally offensive side with well-documented defensive frailties, should Pochettino use a similar game-plan this weekend or look to dominate the ball at home?
MC: I think Liverpool are a dangerous outfit and believe we need to keep possession throughout to stop them getting any rhythm in the attacking third. We have been caught out over the past few games against Liverpool with their fast starts, so we need to kill their momentum and look to attack them from wide areas – given how poor their full backs are and their back line generally is.
James Milner and Trent Alexander-Arnold both impressed in the 7-0 win over Maribor. Would you keep them in the starting XI this weekend or revert back to the side that drew with Manchester United?
GD: In terms of the right-back situation, I think Joe Gomez will come back into the side and I’d say that’s the best thing to do. The former Charlton player seems to be the man for our league games whilst Alexander-Arnold takes over when it comes to Europe – much like the system we employ with our goalkeepers. Gomez was our best player against Manchester United last weekend, too, so I don’t think Klopp will have too many qualms with bringing him back in.
As for Milner, I’d actually keep him in the side – he really was very good against Maribor in the week and although the Slovenians didn’t prove to be much competition, he deserves the credit he has been getting lately. Who he replaces is where it gets difficult. I’d have said Georginio Wijnaldum but I actually think he has picked up in recent games, whilst Emre Can now seems to be the quieter one and Jordan Henderson is the skipper so he’s surely going to play. Personally I think Klopp will go with the usual trio and leave Milner out but I was impressed with him, so I’d bring him in for Can on Sunday.
Other than that it should be the same side that drew with United.
Dele Alli just hasn’t been himself this season, failing to find the net in the Premier League since August and seeming distracted in recent appearances. Would you drop Alli for the Liverpool clash or do you think the England international will turn up for such a big game?
MC: Alli should have been dropped weeks ago. This is nothing new and he started last season in a similar vein. A spell as a sub had the perfect response and he was sensational in the last two thirds of the campaign where he was tearing everyone apart. Some sections of the Tottenham support are growing frustrated and I believe bringing in Son would be ideal – especially with his pace against their defence.
Tottenham won last weekend against Bournemouth but are still clearly having problems at Wembley, where they’ve scored just three goals in the Premier League this season. Can Liverpool take advantage of that or will they face similar issues on such a large pitch?
GD: The big pitch is going to allow for an open game, that much is certain.
Perhaps I’m being over-optimistic but I actually think the Wembley pitch will help the Reds go about their game more than if this match was being played at White Hart Lane. Yes, it’ll be an exhausting match for all involved but Spurs and Liverpool are probably two of the fittest sides in the Premier League thanks to their managers, so the high-press shouldn’t be impacted too much. Things might get a bit leggy in the last 20 minutes and that is where the game could be won for either side.
In terms of where Liverpool can take advantage of Spurs, it’s going be making sure the transition from defending to attacking is quick enough so that Spurs’ wing-backs cannot recover from their surges forward. Spurs don’t have Kyle Walker from last season whilst Danny Rose is only just returning and though I think some of their other full-backs are still top players, they’re not as explosive as that pair. If we can get things forward quickly and wide, that is where we will profit on Sunday.
Tottenham haven’t beaten Liverpool in their last nine attempts in the Premier League, spanning back to 2012 when there were different managers at the helm and entirely different squads. What can Pochettino learn from that worrying run and take into Sunday’s game?
MC: Pochettino generally has problems against teams who are all-out-attack and have pace. We normally dominate possession and Poch has failed so far in games where the opposition are in their face. I think that is why we have been impressed with the games against Dortmund and Madrid of late, as it feels the team is being more disciplined in these situations; however, can we do this in the faster pace of the Premier League – I guess we will have to wait and see.
Which Liverpool player do you think will be most important to beating Tottenham and why?
GD: It perhaps seems a cop-out but Mo Salah is going to be the one to watch. The Egyptian is our most in-form player and was superb against Maribor with him getting on the score-sheet – alongside Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho. The three should be in good spirits and confident going into this one so I hope they’ll all prove important, but Salah’s battle with whoever Pochettino plays on the left will be crucial.
If Salah can get past his opposing number he’s quick enough to get away from anyone and on a pitch the size of Wembley’s, that could cause havoc for Spurs. We saw what Salah can do with open grass in front of him when he tore away from Arsenal for his goal earlier this season and, though Spurs should be tighter than the Gunners were, any opportunity he gets to stretch his legs could be game over for them.
And finally, let’s hear your score predictions…
MC: Given our recent displays against Liverpool, I think most supporters would take a point. I think there will be a few goals in this game and I am fearful about Coutinho’s set pieces – given how bad Lloris is at stopping free kicks. Equally, Liverpool have a soft defensive centre and I like to think we will test them a lot more than United did last week. I am backing a 2-2 draw; however, if we were to score early then I reckon we could see a much-needed, confidence-building home win.
GD: It should be a better game than the United fixture (won’t take much) and I’m going for a 2-2 draw as well.