Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur: Jonathan Wilson's Tactical Preview


The international week has passed and, despite most of their players being involved in games, Tottenham seem to have come through it unscathed, although Toby Alderweireld is a slight doubt after missing Belgium’s games through illness. Jan Vertonghen, Nabil Bentaleb and Clinton N’Jie are all out, while Ben Davies isn’t certain to be available after damaging his face in the Europa League defeat to Borussia Dortmund.

Liverpool’s injuries are beginning to mount again. Christian Benteke, Divock Origi and Roberto Firmino pulled out of international squads with a knock, a thigh injury and a hamstring strain respectively. Alberto Moreno is a doubt with a hamstring problem, while Lucas has damaged his thigh and Joe Gomez and Danny Ings are long-term absentees.



Manchester United v Liverpool - UEFA Europa League Round of 16: Second Leg : News Photo

Spurs have won eight of their last 10 games although the emphatic 3-0 dismissal of Bournemouth two weeks ago came as a welcome assertion of authority after a slight wobble that had seen them lose at West Ham and then drop points from a winning position against the 10 men of Arsenal.

Liverpool remain inconsistent, although the 3-2 defeat having been 2-0 up at Southampton was perhaps in part explicable by their exertions in the Europa League three days previously. Before that they had won three in a row in the league, as well as securing their passage to the Europa League quarter-finals.



The sides met in October in Jurgen Klopp’s first game as Liverpool coach. His players ran themselves into the ground, threatened Tottenham, wearied, then recovered to turn the second half into something of a non-event. That is a possibility on Saturday when the danger is that two sides with similar approaches to pressing may cancel each other out.

The stakes for Tottenham here, though, with them five points behind Leicester City at the top of the table, mean the dynamic is very different and there will be no sense, as there was at White Hart Lane, of both sides effectively settling for a point.



Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal - Premier League : News Photo

Not only are the styles of Liverpool and Tottenham similar, so too are the shapes. Assuming Klopp opts to start with Daniel Sturridge at centre-forward and Roberto Firmino behind him, they will be in a 4-2-3-1.

Tottenham’s shape is often described as a 4-2-3-1 but it’s somewhere between that system and a 4-3-3. Essentially there are three central midfielders arranged in an asymmetric triangle with Eric Dier at the base, Mousa Dembele bullying around him, and Dele Alli breaking forward to link up with Harry Kane and the two wide men, probably Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela. How Liverpool’s central triangle of Jordan Henderson, Emre Can and Firmino fares against Tottenham’s three will go a long way to determining the winner.



Are Tottenham tired? The question was raised after the West Ham and Arsenal games and, no matter how good Spurs looked against Bournemouth, the doubt still lingers: beating Aston Villa and seeing off Bournemouth after getting an early goal are not hard-enough earned wins to settle nerves.

In four of the five seasons he has completed as manager, at Espanyol, Southampton and Spurs, Pochettino has picked up fewer points per game in the final 12 games of the season than the first 26. In total, he takes 20.2% fewer points per game in the final third of the season than the first two-thirds. After the relatively straightforward wins over Villa and Bournemouth, this will be a test.



Liverpool v FC Augsburg - UEFA Europa League Round of 32: Second Leg : News Photo

Both sides play wide men who like to cut infield, which makes the role of the respective full-backs vital, both in covering the runs of the opposing wide men and in getting forward to provide attacking width. Roy Hodgson, presumably, will be a keen observer given there are potentially three England full-backs on display: Nathaniel Clyne, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker.

This will be a test of Clyne playing at left-back – where he may have to provide cover for England if Hodgson takes only three full-backs – and of Rose up against another England player, Adam Lallana.



Even with the concerns over fatigue, given Liverpool’s inconsistency and Tottenham’s need to win, a price of 2.85 on a Spurs victory seems generous.

The likelihood is that similarity of approaches will cancel and this will be low scoring – under-2.5 goals is 1.85 – so if you’re backing a Spurs win it may be worth Dutching some correct scores bets: 1-0 is 9.50, 2-0 is 15.00 and 2-1 is 11.00.