The latest instalment of Tottenham’s rivalry with Liverpool is back this weekend as Mauricio Pochettino’s men welcome Jurgen Klopp’s Reds to Wembley.
Of the two sides, Tottenham are in the better form and they currently sit in third-place in the table with 17 points. Considering Manchester City and United have been lauded as the main two contenders for the title, but Spurs have slowly but surely worked their way up the table and they are now just five points behind top side City.
Liverpool, on the other hand, have had a harder time of it in their opening eight games. 13 points from eight is a poor return and they have drawn too many games this season, with four of eight ending in a stalemate. What is most interesting is that Arsenal are in crisis, and they are level on points with Liverpool.
In recent times though, this fixture has taught us that all form goes out the window when these two sides meet:
The stats do not make for good reading for any Tottenham fans. Spurs have not won a game against the Reds in their last 10 matches, indeed, seven of the games have ended in wins for Liverpool. The Reds have scored 24 goals, while Tottenham have returned a paltry seven.
While the form book says that this will be a walk in the park for Liverpool, as previously mentioned, form goes out the window when the two sides meet, as Tottenham are usually in good form going into the game before being blown away by Liverpool.
Tottenham’s team shape
Tactically, Tottenham are likely to play five at the back as they know that Liverpool’s game plan revolves around getting their attacking-players into space and exploiting their creativity. The five defenders will crowd the area in front of goal and provide a wall that protects Hugo Lloris, while the defensive ability of Toby Alderweireld will be vital in marshalling Tottenham’s backline.
The wing-backs will also allow Spurs to have defensive width that is important against Liverpool as Mohamed Salah, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino will look to work in from the flanks. It is therefore vital that Tottenham have wing-backs that can get forward and provide width, whilst also having the engines to work back and put pressure on their opponents.
Tottenham will miss the combative and physical figure of Victor Wanyama in the middle as he continues to recover from a knee injury, meaning they may have to utilise Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko in the middle once again. The two were very good against Real Madrid on Tuesday and, if they can replicate this performance, then Liverpool will find little joy in midfield. Winks is a youthful and intelligent presence both on and off the bacll, with his deft touches and slick passing a feature of his game.
Winks is a youthful and intelligent presence both on and off the ball, with his deft touches and slick passing a feature of his game. Sissoko on the other hand is a powerful and quick player that can turn defence into attack very quickly. He will look to put pressure on Liverpool’s midfield as he tries to rob them of possession before setting the forwards away.
Interestingly, Fernando Llorente was used behind Harry Kane in the absence of Dele Alli and looked very good on Tuesday, however, he is unlikely to feature there again if Alli is to return. Harry Kane will be as important as always, with his goal threat in and outside of the box vital.
What must Tottenham do to beat Liverpool?
Quite simply, they must stifle Liverpool’s attacking line. When Liverpool played Arsenal, the London side gave them far too much space that they were able to exploit and they ran rampant. When the Reds played Manchester City, they were hit by an aggressive City side that looked to suffocate the team of space which worked superbly.
Tottenham, who have been very good at the back this season conceding just five goals, will be looking to continue this form and if they use five players at the back then it will cut down the available space. What Liverpool do not enjoy is being forced onto the backfoot.
Defensively they are very poor and they do not deal with intense probing well. Indeed, there are mistakes in the backline that Tottenham can exploit with the likes of Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen. Kane will relish the chance of attacking a defender like Dejan Lovren, while Eriksen’s ability to thread passes is likely to terrify Liverpool.
Liverpool’s team shape
Liverpool will look to stay with the same 4-3-3 formation that has served them well at times this season. Jordan Henderson and Emre Can provide a solid defensive base next to Philippe Coutinho, while Firmino and Salah are outstanding talents out wide. The only point of contention is who will start where, as the Reds do not have a recognised striker, meaning Firmino may have to fill in and, with Sadio Mane still missing, this will push Coutinho out wide and bring another player into midfield.
Defensively, Liverpool are still struggling massively. Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip started the Red’s win over Maribor and they looked solid, although their game against the minnows was hardly going to be a thorough defensive-examination.
Indeed, they will have to contend with the Premier League’s in-form striker in Harry Kane, which has seen better defenders than them crumble. If Tottenham are to win this game, then it will be because Liverpool’s defence has buckled.
What must Liverpool do to beat Tottenham?
Liverpool will look to keep the ball away from Tottenham and examine their defence thoroughly. Their pacy wide-men are happy staying out wide to receive the ball before flying down the wing or cutting inside and attacking the heart of the defence, meaning the wing-backs will have to cover all eventualities on the day.
The Red’s midfield will be vital though, as Henderson and Can are the last line of defence between Tottenham and Liverpool’s defence. They will have to chase down every pass, track each runner and battle hard to keep their shape in front of the back-four.
If Henderson and Can are able to do this, then it will likely see Liverpool dominate possession, which means the pressure on their defence will be lessened. It will also be massively important for Liverpool that the front-men drop in and help out when the Reds are under pressure, because if they steal the ball then it will aid their quick counter-attacks.
Tottenham’s apparent Wembley difficulties will give Liverpool confidence, but the London team’s draw with Real Madrid in Spain will give them real hope of winning this one. Liverpool, on the other hand, have kept two clean sheets in their last two games, meaning they go into the match with some confidence at the back.
Tottenham are by no means a Harry Kane-centric team, but they will need their talisman to come good for them on Sunday. Honestly, the first goalscorer in the game is vital. If Tottenham hit the back of the net first then they will be able to drop back and count on their outstanding defensive shape, whilst looking for the partnership of Kane and Eriksen that is able to work well on their own.
If Liverpool score first though, then they will fancy their chances of hitting Spurs on the counter-attack with their incredibly quick and incisive attack.
Unlike Manchester United’s game with Liverpool, this one could be a very entertaining match. Both sides are superb offensively, while Tottenham are head and shoulders above Liverpool at the back. With this in mind, we are backing a Tottenham triumph on Sunday.