30 August 2014

Liverpool at Tottenham 08.31.14

8:30am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
4-0 Liverpool (h) 03.30.14
5-0 Liverpool (a) 12.14.13
3-2 Liverpool (h) 03.10.13
1-2 Tottenham (a) 11.28.12

Last matches:
Liverpool: 1-3 City (a), 2-1 Southampton (h)
Tottenham: 3-0 AEL Limassol (h); 4-0 QPR (h); 2-1 AEL Limassol (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Sterling, Sturridge 1
Tottenham: Chadli, Dier 2; Adebayor 1

Referee: Phil Dowd

Guess at a line-up:
Manquillo Skrtel Lovren Enrique
Henderson Coutinho
Sterling Sturridge Lallana

Rodgers has been talking up Lallana in the run-up to this match, so I suspect he'll be thrown straight into the fray. I'm still looking for other options opposite Sterling if Liverpool stick with the 4-3-3 system; Coutinho often struggles to create when used out wide, and has become strong enough to play as a central midfielder in this formation. As he did against Tottenham last season, albeit at Anfield. When used on the left in this fixture last season he took four shots – none on-target – but created just a single chance. Of course, Liverpool still won 5-0. But tomorrow's opponent will be a very different Tottenham than last season's Tottenham.

There are questions over Lallana's match fitness, but he's probably more ready than Markovic, who's most likely better served being used off the bench, as he was against City.

But then again, maybe the answer is reverting to the 4-4-2 diamond if Rodgers thinks Balotelli is ready. Gerrard at the base, Henderson and either Coutinho or Allen as the wide central midfielders, Sterling or Coutinho at the apex, Sturridge and Balotelli up front. And it's worth mentioning that Balotelli was used on the left of a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 at times when at Manchester City.

Both Johnson and Moreno were injured in Monday's frustrating final minutes. In Friday's press conference, Rodgers seemingly ruled Johnson out, but suggested that Moreno could recover in time. If he doesn't, the only option is Enrique, as Flanagan's still injured and playing Sakho at left-back shouldn't be an option. Skrtel will probably start after also picking up a knock in the final 10 minutes against City, yet again preventing the Lovren/Sakho partnership many have been clamoring for.

As said above, this won't be last season's Tottenham. Pochettinho found where Sherwood had buried Lamela, revitalized Capoue, and restored a shaky defense. His system gave Liverpool fits in the three matches against his Southampton over the last 18 months: two losses and a 3-0 win at St. Mary's, but with that scoreline slightly flattering what was still a good Liverpool performance.

Other than Lloris and Kaboul, we probably won't see any of the players used in the 3-0 Europa League win on Thursday. I suspect Pochettino will deploy the same XI that walloped QPR last weekend: Lloris; Dier, Kaboul, Vertonghen, Rose; Bentaleb, Capoue; Lamela, Eriksen, Chadli; Adebayor.

Tottenham's fullbacks are vulnerable. Dier has two goals – one from a set play, one from a clever run into the box – but he's still more a center-back than fullback. Danny Rose remains Danny Rose. This is another reason why starting Markovic or Lallana makes more sense to me, rather than Coutinho wide or the 4-4-2 diamond. It's hard to stretch the field in the latter formation, and Coutinho doesn't stay wide when he plays wide.

Tottenham were horrific in games against the five teams above them in the table last season: winning once (home v Everton), drawing twice, and losing seven, scoring three while conceding 27. And while they looked very good against QPR and Limassol, and good enough when down to 10 men at West Ham, they haven't played good opposition yet this season.

Meanwhile, Liverpool haven't come close to top gear in either of their matches, doing just enough to beat Southampton at home, decent for 30-40 minutes against City but ultimately outgunned three to one.

It may only be the third match of the league campaign, but this is a massive, massive test for both sides.


Dan said...

Nate- Looking forward to another full campaign of your intelligent, insightful analysis.

While it was best for Daniel in the end, Agger's departure makes this a bit of a sad day. A true Red.

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