FIVE key battles that will decide Liverpool vs Tottenham

In arguably the pick of the Premier League’s mid-week action, Tottenham’s visit to Liverpool sees the division’s two most in-form sides face off at 8pm this evening.

The Lilywhites boast 13 points from their last six league encounters, but the Reds have gone one better with 14 and are currently the only English side to go without defeat in the top flight since the turn of 2015.

Home advantage plays to the Anfield outfit’s favour too, but Spurs are currently four points and two places higher in the Premier League table.

So who goes into tonight’s fixture as the favourites, if there’s one at all? Perhaps these FIVE key individual battles can shed some light on the issue.

HARRY KANE VS LIVERPOOL

To label Tottenham a one-man team would be paying a huge disservice to the rest of their squad, not to mention the excellent team ethic Mauricio Pochettino has installed since taking the White Hart Lane hot seat in the summer.

Yet, there’s no question who the talk of north London is at the moment – Harry ‘Hurrikane’, ‘Kane of the Lane’ ‘he’s one of our own’ Kane, who boasts more goals for the season than any other Premier League player with a monolithic 22, including eight goals (and two assists) in his last nine top flight outings.

Indeed, it seems the 21 year-old just can’t stop scoring at the moment; if a Jan Vertonghen 50 yard piledriver hit him square in the face and knocked him unconscious this evening, the ball would still likely trickle into Simon Mignolet’s net.

Boasting an impressive all-round game and the miraculous ability to convert an incredible variety of chances, as his expertly angled header against Arsenal last weekend paid specific homage to, the duty of nullifying Kane’s goal threat can’t fall to one player or even a single department – the whole of Liverpool’s starting Xi must be wary of the England U21’s abilities in the final third and react accordingly.

In addition to his superfluous form and endless supply of goals, the 6 foot 2 forward has averaged one tackle per match in the Premier League this season, so Liverpool’s defence – who like to play out of the back as much as possible – should expect Kane pressure them in possession for the whole ninety minutes – something the eternally-unconvincing-on-the-ball Mamadou Sakho should particularly bear in mind.

DANIEL STURRIDGE VS JAN VERTONGHEN

Liverpool are slowly nursing Daniel Sturridge back to full health after a lengthy injury layoff, spanning from the Reds’ 3-0 win over Spurs in August to mid-January, but with Raheem Sterling set to miss tonight’s game due to a foot injury, it’s likely Brendan Rodgers will thrust the England striker back into the starting Xi, ahead of misfiring threesome Rickie Lambert, Mario Balotelli and Fabio Borini.

After electing Eric Dier over Federico Fazio against Arsenal at the weekend, despite the latter’s impressive form since moving to White Hart Lane in the summer, it remains to be seen who Mauricio Pochettino will opt for as Jan Vertonghen’s centre-back partner to face the Reds this evening.

In terms of eradicating the prolific goalscoring threat Sturridge offers however, now boasting 33 goals in just 47 Premier League appearances for Liverpool, the Belgium international must take specific responsibility.

Unlike Fazio and Dier, Vertonghen possesses the pace to cope with the Reds forward and will resultantly need to protect his partner from potential one-on-one situations. Sturridge also likes to drift from the right to shoot with his powerful and accurate left foot, which falls into Vertonghen’s remit once again.

That being said, Sturridge is near unstoppable when in top form – so the Lilywhites will be hoping that he’s still not fully recovered from his continuous injury problems.

ALBERTO MORENO VS KYLE WALKER

Alberto Moreno wreaked absolute havoc at White Hart Lane earlier in the season, driving from left-back to score the incredible solo goal above, and will be hoping for a repeat performance this evening.

The Spain international’s role has changed somewhat since however, moved up the field slightly from an attacking-minded full-back to a borderline left winger, as a defining characteristic of Liverpool’s exotic 3-4-2-1 formation which has produced a considerable upturn in form.

That puts him directly up against Kyle Walker, who has settled back into Tottenham’s starting Xi fairly well since first returning from a long-term injury in mid-December, since averaging an impressive 2.8 tackles, 2.8 interceptions and one successful dribble per match.

The England international will be keen to contribute going forward but so will Moreno, so this key battle is delicately poised upon who balances out their offensive and defensive duties the best, and who takes advantage of the others’ failure to track back.

STEVEN GERRARD VS CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN

Lucas Leiva’s recent injury is a huge blow to Liverpool’s ambitions this season. Not only has the Brazilian produced some stellar performances since his reintroduction into Liverpool’s starting Xi in December, averaging an incredible 4.1 tackles per match in the Premier League, but he’s also a fairly unique member of the Reds roster in terms of the kind of service he provides, offering an unrivalled sense of tenacity, energy and defensive awareness in the middle of the park.

It’s an almighty loss for this evening’s fixture particularly, with Liverpool coming up against one of the Premier League’s most in-form No.10s in Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen, who boasts nine goals and one assist in 24 league outings this term.

Also creating 2.5 chances per match this season, the most of any Spurs player by quite some distance, the Danish prodigy is a focal point of his side’s attacking play and nullifying him is essential to stopping Tottenham getting up the field.

In Leiva’s absence, logic suggests the role of anchoring Liverpool’s midfield will go to their captain Steven Gerrard – although Joe Allen, a revised role for Emre Can or even the introduction of academy product Jordan Rossiter remain viable alternatives. He’s been used in more offensive capacities recently but the Anfield icon’s credentials as a defensive midfielder remain undoubted.

That being said, Eriksen’s elusive playmaking style and his agile mobility could leave Gerrard unstuck. Most imperative however is that the England centurion stays switched on for the whole 90 minutes when marking the 22 year-old; he’s scored an incredible late winners already this term, coming in the 88th minute or after, and appears to be developing a real knack for them.

PHILIPPE COUTINHO VS NABIL BENTALEB

In a similar style to Christian Eriksen, Philippe Coutinho is the creative presence keeping Liverpool’s midfield ticking over and connected to the front-line.

The Brazilian struggled earlier in the campaign but has bounced back in recent weeks – particularly since he’s begun to be utilised more centrally by Brendan Rodgers – bagging one goal, four assists and three Man of the Match awards in his last nine Premier League outings. In that time, Coutinho has rediscovered arguably his defining gift as a footballer; those killer passes to Liverpool’s pacey strikers.

The duty of stopping him will predominantly fall to Tottenham’s Nabil Bentaleb, a bit of an unsung hero when considering the nationwide praise Eriksen and Kane have received this term. He’s keeping the likes of Paulinho, Etienne Capoue and Moussa Dembele out of the side on merit, with impressive averages of 2.2 tackles and 2.3 interceptions per match this term, in addition to a pass completion rate of 87%.

He and Ryan Mason have struck up quite the understanding together in central midfield, so Coutinho will have to run rings around both of them to create chances regularly this evening.

 


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