Premier League Tactical Preview: Tottenham vs Liverpool


Just a few weeks ago Andre Villas-Boas was a man under pressure.

Two straight wins later he looks like he might be finding his way with his revamped Spurs squad, which is timely given that his side host the in-form Liverpool this weekend.

If Spurs win this tie they'll go level on points with second-placed Liverpool, while Liverpool will want to close the gap on leaders Arsenal with three big points here.

Tottenham are slight favourites at 2.45 for the win, while Liverpool are just outside at 2.85.

 

Possible line-ups

Christian Eriksen and Danny Rose could be in contention having missed out recently through injury. Against Sunderland, Spurs had to play Étienne Capoue at centre-back as a result of injuries. Younes Kaboul could return to add some solidity to the back-line and also some much-needed pace.

Liverpool are without Steven Gerrard who will miss the whole Christmas period. The club are also without Daniel Sturridge, who will be out until January. Joe Allen will continue in place of Gerrard while Philippe Coutinho should play in behind Luis Suarez in place of the injured Sturridge.

 

Suarez versus Spurs' high-line

Luis Suarez is a man bang in form right now having scored an astonishing 14 goals in the 10 games since he returned from suspension, meaning that he is leading the Premier League scoring charts.

It's fair to say that the Uruguayan is in a strong position to become the Premier League player of the year if he can continue at this rate. One reason this is a concern for Spurs is that their defence no longer looks as solid as it was at the beginning of the season, having conceded 11 goals in their last five games, compared with just five goals in the ten games prior to this.

Against Manchester City, the pace of City's forwards in behind caused Spurs a host of problems. The high-line was too porous and was easily exploited. Against a forward as shrewd and pacey as Suarez, Spurs' backline cannot afford to slip up.

Any pockets of space in behind will invite the forward to run in behind to great effect. Allen might be utilised in the Gerrard role to dictate the play and find Suarez when he becomes available.


As we can see above, Joe Allen completed 91% of his passes against West Ham, several of which were long balls and diagonal passes. If Allen is allowed space to operate on the ball he could be crucial in setting Luis Suarez off in behind.

Philippe Coutinho is another man with a key role to play. Again he will look to set Suarez off in behind and his incisive passing could be crucial. While not as accurate as Allen, he will look to play the crucial balls in behind as we can see below:


This above graphic highlights Coutinho's through balls, long passes and key passes from the 4-1 victory over West Ham. As we can see he is quick to try and find Suarez with intricate passing in behind. If Spurs' back line steps up they could be caught out by these passes and punished by a goal hungry Suarez.

Spurs revival?

Back-to-back defeats at home to Newcastle and away to Manchester City led to speculation that AVB might lose his job and led to a lot of criticism of his playing style and ability to get the best out of his new recruits. Fast forward two weeks and things are looking up for Spurs having drawn 2-2 at home to Manchester United and having picked up back to back wins against Fulham and Sunderland.

Not only are results improving but most important of all Spurs have scored six goals in their last three games. Prior to this the side had scored just nine goals in 12 games, which marks a stark improvement in their form in front of goal, something that will give the fans and manager confidence going into a crucial Christmas period. While neither Roberto Soldado nor Jermain Defoe have found the net in this period, there is still cause for some optimism with the club having found the net from open play more frequently than was previously the case. A Spurs 'resurgence' is probably a bit of an overstatement, but there have been clear signs of improvement which will be tested as second placed Liverpool come to town.

 

Conclusion

This could be a key fixture that tells us a lot about both sides. Liverpool disappointed in their last visit to North London, losing 2-0 to Arsenal. They will want to rectify that with a strong performance in this tie and know that against a sometimes dodgy high-line they can have joy against Spurs.

For Spurs, they will want to show that they are serious about their bid for a top four finish having failed to beat any of the sides challenging for the top spots, losing against Manchester City and Arsenal, while drawing at home to Chelsea and Liverpool. This then, will be a very telling contest, between two potentially very good sides.



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