After a genuinely interesting international break, we welcome back the Premier League with a tantalising top-of-the-table clash. On Sunday afternoon, it’s Liverpool vs Tottenham, 1st vs 3rd, Jürgen Klopp vs Mauricio Pochettino, Mohamed Salah vs Harry Kane. Whichever way you look at it, it’s a match that offers real entertainment.
After a difficult February, Liverpool bounced back to win 4 of their last 5 games before the international break. They currently sit 1 point clear of Manchester City, with 7 games to play. If they can get past Tottenham, that finish line will look a lot closer. Salah is goalless in 7 but fortunately, Sadio Mané has really picked up the slack. The Senegalese forward is in the form of his life, scoring 7 times in those last 5 games. The only question mark for Liverpool will be the goals they’re letting in. Conceding 2 against Burnley at Anfield was a little unlucky, but also a little sloppy.
Tottenham will be hoping for more generous Liverpool defending as they look to secure another 3rd-place Premier League finish. The problem is that after only 1 Spurs win in 5, their North London rivals Arsenal are now just 1 point behind them. Plus, Tottenham haven’t won at Anfield since 2011. The good news is that Kane and Dele Alli are back and they didn’t look too rusty for England. The bad news is that Liverpool vs Tottenham will be a much sterner test than either Czech Republic or Montenegro.
Roberto Firmino is a slight doubt for Liverpool vs Tottenham, but he did score for Brazil on Tuesday night. His link-up play with Salah and Mané is so key to Klopp’s plan. Right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold is equally important and looks equally likely to start. In other fitness news, Joe Gomez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are both on the comeback trail after lengthy injuries.
For Pochettino, the midfield is the main cause for concern. Alli should be fit to start, but Eric Dier and Harry Winks are less certain. That would leave Moussa Sissoko and Victor Wanyama to hold the fort against Liverpool’s many midfield options.
These days, three-quarters of the Liverpool team picks itself. It’s only really the midfield three that Klopp rotates. James Milner and Naby Keïta both stayed behind during the international break, but Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum all featured for their respective countries. And then there’s Adam Lallana, who has clearly forced his way ahead of Xherdan Shaqiri in Klopp’s more attacking thinking.
Tottenham’s formation is harder to predict. Pochettino usually prefers to play a back three away from home to take the defensive pressure off full-backs Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies/Danny Rose. With the fitness concerns in central midfield, that system looks all the more likely for Liverpool vs Tottenham.
Player to Watch: Andrew Robertson
Just in case you hadn’t worked it out yet, a lot of Liverpool’s attacking threat comes from their full-backs. Alexander-Arnold has 6 assists this season, while Robertson has a team-leading 8. The Scottish captain could well be the key to winning this game, especially if he’s up against the much-maligned Trippier.