03 February 2018

Liverpool v Tottenham 02.04.18

11:30am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
1-4 Tottenham (a) 10.22.17
2-0 Liverpool (h) 02.11.17
2-1 Liverpool (h; League Cup) 10.25.16
1-1 (a) 08.27.16

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 3-0 Huddersfield (a); 2-3 West Brom (h); 0-1 Swansea (a)
Tottenham: 2-0 United (h); 1-1 Newport (a); 1-1 Southampton (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Salah 19; Firmino 11; Coutinho 7; Mané 6; Oxlade-Chamberlain 3; Can, Sturridge 2; Alexander-Arnold, Henderson, Klavan, Lovren, Matip, Wijnaldum 1
Tottenham: Kane 21; Son 8; Eriksen 7; Dele 5; Davies 2; Aurier, Llorente, Sissoko 1

Referee: Jon Moss (LFC History) (WhoScored)

Guess at a line-up:
Gomez Matip van Dijk Robertson
Alex O-C Henderson Can
Salah Firmino Mané

Lallana's still out, as are Klavan and Clyne, but everyone else is available.

And when that's the case, the only line-up question really seems to be in midfield.

My still-in-formulation midfield theory would see Can as the deepest midfielder and Henderson probably left out, with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wijnaldum also involved. That seems the most-athletic, best pressing midfield. That's also the midfield we saw when hosting Manchester City. The likes of Henderson, Can, and Milner – as at Huddersfield – seems better in those against the smaller clubs, the deeper sides. But with Henderson newly returned and both he and Can impressive last time out, I suspect it'll be those two plus one other tomorrow – most likely Oxlade-Chamberlain but maybe Wijnaldum.

As a reminder, both Henderson and Can started against Tottenham at Wembley in October – albeit with Milner rather than Oxlade-Chamberlain or Wijnaldum. It did not go well.

Otherwise, the XI seems fairly easy to predict unless we get one of those rare curveballs. It'll be Gomez and Robertson at full-back, and almost certainly Matip and van Dijk at center-back. Sure, the Lovren Redemption Story would be a wonderful story, and he did play well on Tuesday, but I'd rather not risk it. I remember the last time these sides met. Tottenham remembers the last time these sides met. And Dejan Lovren remembers the last time these sides met. Let's just not.

And, of course, the preferred front three will definitely be the starting front three.

Meanwhile, Tottenham. I miss the days when Liverpool hilariously romped Tottenham in three consecutive matches a couple of years back, and were unbeaten against Tottenham in ten consecutive matches. Until last October.

Matches against Tottenham have been less fun since Pochettino took over. Tottenham may be fifth, barely outside the Champions League places and shy of the heights hit in the previous two seasons – aside from Harry Kane's prolificacy, that is – but they are still terrifying, good, and often a fun house mirror version of Liverpool.

I don't expect we'll see the same 3-5-1-1 system used to such effect when these sides met at Wembley. More likely seems the same XI which beat United 2-0 on Wednesday. Lloris; Trippier, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Davies; Dier, Dembele; Son, Alli, Eriksen; Kane.

Aurier, Winks, and Alderweireld all returned from injuries this week, so all three could come into the side if need be – for Trippier, Dembele, and Sanchez respectively. Lucas Moura's also available after completing a move on deadline day, but I don't see who he's replacing in that attacking line of three. Similar goes for finally-fit-again Erik Lamela. Of course, that attack is terrifying. And Tottenham are even more reliant upon it for goals than Liverpool are theirs; Kane, Son, Alli, and Eriksen are the only Tottenham players with more than two in the league. Three of those four scored the last time these sides met.

Michael Caley's probably right. This match will be won by the side who presses the other into more mistakes. At Wembley, Tottenham repeatedly dispossessed Liverpool when the away side was trying to build possession to attack, and launched straight for Liverpool's goal. Sure, they received a massive helping hand from Lovren, and others, but Tottenham were able to play Tottenham's game far more than Liverpool could Liverpool's. And it ended very, very badly for Liverpool.

Liverpool have been a far better pressing side at home, especially against their peers. We saw it best against Manchester City. The away match was Liverpool's other incredibly humiliating defeat this season. The home match was absolutely riotous, nowhere near as close as the 4-3 result would suggest thanks to a furious start and an even more furious 20 minutes after halftime.

The potential for that is absolutely there tomorrow. But so is the potential for a rerun of last October's embarrassment. And the result will go a long way in deciding this season's top four places.

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