25 October 2016

Liverpool v Tottenham 10.25.16

2:45pm ET, live in the US on beIN Sports.

Last four head-to-head:
1-1 (a) 08.27.16
1-1 (h) 04.02.16
0-0 (a) 10.17.15
3-2 Liverpool (h) 02.10.15

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-1 West Brom (h); 0-0 United (h); 2-1 Swansea (a)
Tottenham: 0-0 Bournemouth (a); 0-0 Leverkusen (a); 1-1 West Brom (a)

Previous rounds:
Liverpool: 3-0 Derby (a); 5-0 Burton Albion (a)
Tottenham: 5-0 Gillingham (h)

Goalscorers (all):
Liverpool: Coutinho 5; Firmino, Mané, Milner 4; Lallana 3; Origi, Sturridge 2; Henderson, Klavan, Lovren 1
Tottenham: Son 5; Alli 3; Eriksen, Kane, Lamela 2; Alderweireld, Janssen, Onomah, Rose, Wanyama 1

Referee: Jon Moss

Guess at a line-up:
Alexander-Arnold Matip Klavan Moreno
Grujic Stewart Wijnaldum
Sturridge Origi

Liverpool almost always play a stronger than expected XI in this competition. They did throughout last season, and they did in the first two fixtures this season. But I just can't see that happening tomorrow. Lallana and Wijnaldum are recently back from injury. Emre Can's still working his way to match fitness. Henderson's suspended. Nat King Clyne's played every available minute so far, while Coutinho, Firmino, Mané, and Milner aren't far behind.

So screw it. Let's see the kids. And, because it better suits who's available, let's see a 4-4-2 diamond.

Admittedly, I'd be a bit surprised with this many changes. But Tottenham are also expected to rotate almost its entire XI. Mignolet's certainly coming in. Klavan and Moreno need match time. Grujic, Stewart, and possibly Lucas can come into midfield. Both Alexander-Arnold and Ejaria have been mentioned as possible debutants. Wijnaldum seems the most likely front-six starter to keep his place, having played just 11 minutes against West Brom in his comeback from injury. And since I don't want to pick between Sturridge and Origi, hell, just play them both.

The 4-Diamond-2 worked just fine against Southampton in this competition last season. And, unlike in most other positions, Liverpool don't really have back-up wingers. Ojo's still injured, Woodburn's playing for the u23s. Lallana and Wijnaldum are capable, but usually more needed in midfield. All three of Liverpool's currently-reserve strikers – Ings, Origi, Sturridge – *can* play wide, but it's not something they thrive upon.

Not that form counts for much in a match where both sides will rotate heavily, but Tottenham have underwhelmed lately. Three straight draws, scoring just one goal in those three. But conversely, they've conceded just once in their last five matches. And, somehow, they sit just one point back of Liverpool. It helps when you're the lone unbeaten side left in the division, I guess. Draws are still better than losses.

If Tottenham rotate as heavily as Liverpool, as expected, there will probably be nine or ten changes. Something like Vorm; Trippier, Carter-Vickers, Wimmer, Davies; Dier; N'Koudou, Carroll, Winks, Onomah; Janssen. Maybe it's 4-2-3-1 with Carroll and Winks holding, and either Alli or Eriksen as the #10. Maybe it's Wanyama or Dembele at the base rather than Dier. Maybe youth striker Harrison starts up front rather than Janssen. Even if Spurs start all their kids, they'll still need one or two senior players to fill out the ranks. But like Liverpool, Tottenham's settled XI has played a lot of minutes lately, and Pochettino will want to spell his stars.

Of course, I can't forget that these sides met less than two months ago. And I can't forget that Liverpool should have done better than a draw. And I can't forget that Michel Vorm, who'll come into the Tottenham side, was a big reason why that match finished level. Liverpool and back-up keepers, man.

Incidentally, the same referee from the last meeting – Jon Moss – will also work this one.

This fixture has finished level each of the three times that Klopp and Pochettino have met. Thankfully, I guess, that can't happen today, with extra-time and penalties to come if it's honors even after 90 minutes. No matter who plays, for either side, it's going to be close and contentious, hard-fought between two of the hardest-working sides in the league.

With Liverpool's improvement in the league this season – so far *knocks feverishly on wood* – anything in this competition is gravy atop the Sunday roast. Sure, we'll see the public "we're in it to win it" quotes which are both necessary and ubiquitous, but this competition doesn't have the "we need the matches, we need the time together" impetus it had last season.

It's extra. It's fun. Liverpool have been fun so far this season; still-trying-to-kill-us fun, but fun nonetheless. Let's see more fun, and see where it takes us.

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