10 February 2017

Liverpool v Tottenham 02.11.17

12:30pm ET, live in the US on NBC

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: 0-2 Hull (a); 1-1 Chelsea (h); 1-2 Wolves (h)
Tottenham: 1-0 Boro (h); 0-0 Sunderland (a); 4-3 Wycombe (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Mané 9; Firmino 8; Lallana 7; Milner 6; Coutinho 5; Origi 4; Can, Wijnaldum 3; Lovren, Sturridge 2; Henderson, Matip 1
Tottenham: Kane 14; Alli 11; Son 7; Eriksen 5; Rose, Wanyama 2; Janssen, Lamela, Winks 1

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Guess at a line-up:
Clyne Matip Klavan Milner
Lallana Henderson Can
Mané Firmino Coutinho

2017 rolls on apace. Still winless in the league. Still with just the narrow 1-0 win over Plymouth Argyle. A new nadir achieved with last week's 0-2 loss against a relegation-zone side that Liverpool had beaten 5-1 earlier in the season.

What fresh hell will tomorrow bring? Come at me, annus horribilis.

At least Liverpool are facing someone good? The sides that Liverpool "expect" to beat have been the biggest let-downs of late – the Swanseas, the Hulls. Even during this winter of our discontent, Liverpool remain decent against their top six brethren, with 1-1 draws against both United and Chelsea, matches that Liverpool arguably should have won.

And now they're facing an in-form funhouse mirror. Pochettino's press against Klopp. The fittest, hardest-running sides in the league. A opponent that doesn't score as much as Liverpool – at least, Liverpool before all the evil set in – but one who defends immeasurably better, even if their keeper's got an error or two in him as well. It's all led to these two sides canceling each other out in recent meetings.

At least Liverpool are on a week's rest – for the first time in 2017 – with almost everyone back and available. There are only a couple of minor injury concerns. First, whether Lovren and Klavan will be available after missing Hull. The former has a knee issue and hasn't really trained. The latter was in bed almost all week with illness and only returned yesterday. So Klavan at least has a chance of being available, but there's a better chance it'll be Lucas again. I see you in the back shouting "GOMEZ!!!!!" stop that.

The other concern's in midfield with Lallana doubtful, but I'm guessing is still likely to play because Lallana. And if he is available, we're back to the usual question in midfield: Can or Wijnaldum? Last Saturday saw one of those games where everyone's happy to scream about Emre Can for reasons, even if others are as bad or worse. No matter how annoying his and everyone's performance was, I'm not sure Wijnaldum would've made that much of a difference. But tomorrow's match is at Anfield – the Wijnaldum At Home theory remains valid – and Liverpool will have less of the ball and more reliance on the counter-attack, so Wijnaldum is a bit more likely to get the spot than he was at Hull. But still, probably Can.

There are also rumors that Karius might start ahead of Mignolet after the latter's most recent punishing error but whatever. Each has had good games and bad, each has saved and cost Liverpool points, each is capable of both the sublime and ridiculous in a matter of moments. Karius remains the long-term future – at least the more likely option for it – but I'm fine with trying to ride out Mignolet a little longer.

Meanwhile, Tottenham. The second-most in-form team behind a monstrous Chelsea. Four points ahead of Liverpool. Unbeaten in 11 in all competitions, with nine wins and two draws, including the only league victory over Chelsea since September. Five clean sheets in the last six league matches. However, those two draws came in Tottenham's last two away games: 2-2 at Manchester City and 0-0 at Sunderland.

Tottenham's XI remains fairly easy to predict. Lloris; Walker, Dier, Alderweireld, Davies; Wanyama, Dembele; Eriksen, Alli, Son; Kane. Maybe Cameron Carter-Vickers or Wimmer starts in defense rather than Dier, or Tottenham revert to three-at-the-back, something they've not often done since Vertonghen's injury. Rose and Lamela will also miss out through injury. The last two matches (0-0 at Sunderland and 1-0 against Boro) aside, Kane and Alli have been scoring for fun, Son Heung-Min's chipping in as well, Eriksen's perpetually dangerous from set plays (yes, yes, Liverpool defending set plays). And Tottenham can defend. Oh can Tottenham defend. Even with two crucial starters absent.

Hopefully, precedent will be something of a predictor. Liverpool are unbeaten in their last nine against Tottenham, going back to November 2012. Liverpool haven't lost at home to Tottenham since May 2011. Since Klopp took over, there have been three league draws – 0-0, 1-1, and 1-1 – and a 2-1 League Cup win back in October.

A draw is the minimum required tomorrow. The absolute, barest, "well, at least it wasn't..." minimum.

Liverpool need wins. I cannot stress the word "need" enough. It's possible this will be Liverpool's last match in February; next weekend's an FA Cup round, and if Leicester are held to a replay, the match against Liverpool on February 27 will be postponed.

After the last month, Liverpool are now fifth, only one point and goal difference off fourth but only one point and goal difference ahead of sixth. There will be fewer and fewer chances to stop this terminal velocity free-fall. Liverpool need to take every single chance they can get.

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