09 February 2015

Liverpool v Tottenham 02.10.15

3pm ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
3-0 Liverpool (a) 08.31.14
4-0 Liverpool (h) 03.30.14
5-0 Liverpool (a) 12.14.13
3-2 Liverpool (h) 03.10.13

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-0 Everton (a); 2-1 Bolton (a); 2-0 West Ham (h)
Tottenham: 2-1 Arsenal (h); 3-0 West Brom (a); 2-2 Sheffield Utd (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Gerrard, Sterling 5; Lallana, Own Goal 4; Coutinho, Henderson, Lambert, Moreno, Sturridge 2; Borini, Can, Johnson, Markovic, Skrtel 1
Tottenham: Kane 12; Eriksen 9; Chadli 7; Adebayor, Dier 2; Lamela, Rose, Soldado, Vertonghen 1

Referee: Phil Dowd

Guess at a line-up:
Can Skrtel Sakho
Ibe Henderson Allen Moreno
Sterling Coutinho

Well, that was a less-than-successful derby on the injury front.

We've learned that Lucas will be out for 'a little bit of time,' rumored to be around a month. Which is bad news. Not counting Saturday, Lucas had started in 12 league matches, with Liverpool averaging 2.25 points per match. And in the 11 he didn't start, Liverpool averaged 1.0 points per match.

I'm tempted to think that Liverpool's midfield would be better with Emre Can rather than Allen in place of Lucas, but after the last 10 or so matches, I'm certain that Liverpool's defense is better with Emre Can. Maybe Lovren or Johnson come into the side, with Can moving into midfield, but why take the risk? The defense has been excellent. And Allen, who's barely featured over the last two months, should improve with increased game time.

At least it appears that both Coutinho and Sterling will be available. Would it be better for the players to miss out tomorrow, giving them more time to recuperate from their respective knocks? Obviously. But can Liverpool afford to do so and still win? That I'm much less sure about.

There are also concerns about the availability of Lallana and Markovic, the former left out of the squad at Everton, the latter left on the bench. If fit, Lallana could start instead of Sterling or Coutinho (or Sturridge, if he's still not ready to start). Gerrard's coming off of consecutive 90-minute appearances in the last six days and is obviously going to start in the Steven Gerrard Retirement Tour Cup FA Cup on Saturday, so he can't plausibly feature tomorrow as well. Markovic could also reclaim his place ahead of Ibe. I doubt Liverpool will start both – whether with Markovic or Ibe as one of the attackers, or with Markovic used in place of Moreno on the left – with one needed as a viable attacking option off the bench. Since none of Liverpool's strikers aside from Sturridge appear to be a viable attacking option off the bench.

Finally, I hope that after three substitute appearances, Sturridge will finally be available from the start. It'd be fitting if Sturridge made his first start since returning injury tomorrow, as his last start came at Tottenham just over five months ago. It's the circle of life.

Liverpool have thoroughly enjoyed their last four matches against Tottenham, but this will be a very different fixture. Tottenham are in excellent form, with just one league loss since December 10, an even longer streak than Liverpool's while also picking up more points because of their ability to win rather than draw. It's truly become Pochettino's team: incredibly fit and incredibly tough to beat. Five of Tottenham's last seven league wins have been 2-1 victories. And none of those opposition goals have been consolations, either taking the lead or drawing level only to still lose; three of those five victories came with winning goals after the 85th minute. This team doesn't know when it's beaten. That's not the Tottenham I know.

Partly thanks to that incredible fitness, Tottenham have no current injuries despite a similarly packed fixture list as Liverpool. They'll be able to start Pochettino's strongest XI. It'll be 4-2-3-1, and my best guess is Lloris; Walker, Dier, Vertonghen, Rose; Bentaleb, Mason; Lamela, Dembele, Eriksen; Kane; the same XI which started against Arsenal. Fazio or Chiriches could come into defense instead of Dier. Chadli could be preferred to Dembele or Lamela, the former allowing Eriksen to play in a central role. Personally, I'd play Chadli rather than Lamela, if only for his aerial ability on set plays, which remains Liverpool's main defensive weakness. Or Pochettino could prefer Townsend's out-and-out pace. Stupid plethora of options which Liverpool doesn't have.

Like Liverpool, they're a very young team: Kane's 21, Eriksen's 22, Lamela's 22, Bentaleb's 20 and Mason's 23. It's safe to assume that they'll only continue to get better. Kane's the man of the moment, with two goals against both Arsenal and West Brom in his last two games, and seven goals since the start of the New Year, but Eriksen has been just as important to Tottenham's success, both from open play and set plays. Aside from possibly the league cup match at Chelsea, this will be the sternest test of Liverpool's revamped defense.

One cause for optimism is that Tottenham have kept just two clean sheets in their last nine league matches: a 0-0 draw against United six weeks ago and the 3-0 win at West Brom 10 days ago. They rarely concede more than one, but at least they usually concede. But this is Liverpool we're talking about.

Regardless of the fact that this is a different Tottenham team than in previous meetings, you suspect Liverpool will approach the match the same way. Look to blitz Tottenham from the off, hope to score the early goal which will reprise memories of the last three meetings even if Tottenham's become a more resilient side, and then settle into a counter-attacking routine, soaking up pressure with the improved defense and quickly transitioning into speedy attacks against a sometimes vulnerable opposition.

But that's much easier said than done.


Anonymous said...

This is a completely different and improved Spurs team to any of the earlier ones. Did someone say that they have picked up more points from losing positions than any other team in the Prem this season? Any psychological advantage from recent history is gone. This is a fit and young group of players who don’t dwell on mistakes and don’t know when they’re beaten. It’s going to be an incredibly tough match.

I do like your lineup Nate with Allen in mid and NO SG. I really hope that BR has the sense to rest him. Just some thoughts on how to possibly move Can up to partner Hendo. BR could move to this as an option if Allen is not working in midfield, too.

I’m thinking this may be the time for a shout to giving Lovren a run on the right of the back 3. Give him a chance to show he can earn 1mil of the 20mil that we paid for him. The coaches will have had to be working with him in order for us to use this option. He has to learn that his most important thing when a cross is floated in to the area of Skrtel’s man is the space around him and any attacker that will be in position to get to that 2nd ball. When an opposition AM is running at our D and being marked by one of our DM’s, the most important thing for him is to have an awareness of what the other attackers on his side are doing. He needs to STOP being SO attracted to the ball to the complete exclusion of what is going on around him. Reasoned analysis of any situation is so much more important than the bull in the china shop mentality.

I would move Can up to DM with Hendo. A physical presence in the midfield who is also a ballplayer and a smart reader of situations is what we need in Lucas’ absence. Hendo and Can protecting the CB’s as well as one available to lend offensive support should work a treat. This will also provide an ability for us to neutralize any speed/attack on the wings by us having a WB, a CB and one of Hendo or Can who can challenge in those situations.

2 of Lallana, Coutinho, Sterling and Danny in front of the midfield 4. Marko too in a pinch.

I don’t want to see SG starting. 2 games in 3 days is too much. Heck, 3 games in 6 days is even more ridiculous for 35 year old legs. He’ll be managing his running from the start of the game trying to extend the time he gets on the field. Don’t need that. We need all of our guys in top gear. Especially considering Spurs are in tip top shape with Poch hammering the fitness levels.

The key to this set up is whether Lovren can cope at the back and play smart. But even in the few instances where he goes on a walk-about, we have 2 other center backs that can cover. We also have 2 smart players in front of him in Hendo and Can who can cover. Finally we have a WB who can cover. We’ll have literally 3 guys who at any moment may be able to provide cover. All 3 of those guys have to be clued in to watch plays developing and be ready to provide cover at the back. Lovren is also a threat on corners, which we never seem to be able to score on.

Anonymous said...





Mike Georger said...

"And Allen, who's barely featured over the last two months, should improve with increased game time. "

Hey it's 2012 again.

Anonymous said...

Mike Georger

Comment of the month!

Wish we could up vote these comments. Maybe to get more discussion and comments the person with the highest voted comment each season gets an Oh You Beauty Tshirt!?