Liverpool host Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League on Tuesday evening. Both the teams are looking for the win to to ensure that the ‘top 4’ continues to be in their reach, but out of the two, Liverpool need the win more badly. Let’s assess the current Premier League standings. Liverpool currently lie in the seventh spot with 39 points and Tottenham Hotspur lie in the fifth spot with 43 points. A win over Spurs will mean the Reds can get to 42 points and close down the points gap against their direct top 4 rivals to just one point. A win for Pochettino’s side will mean Spurs go seven points clear and get to 45 points, a considerable cushion over the Merseysiders. A draw for both sides would mean Liverpool are three points behind the White Hart Lane outfit. Therefore, a loss for Rodgers’ side will be a huge blow and this game is an absolute must-win for the hosts, if they want to keep the top 4 finish in their sights.
Here are three things that they need to do to get that win:
Lucas’s substitute needs to fill Brazilian’s shoes properly
Lucas Leiva has been ruled out for Liverpool and is likely to be on the sidelines for four to six weeks. This is a big blow for the Reds, as Liverpool have a very tough and crucial few weeks ahead of them. After Spurs, they take on Crystal Palace in the FA Cup, Besiktas in the Europe League (home), third placed Southampton in the league, Besiktas in the Europe League (away) followed by Manchester City at home.
Liverpool are currently thriving on defensive strength and the Brazilian has been a big part of Liverpool’s current form. Joe Allen is likely to be fielded in his place and Liverpool fans will argue, he is an evident downgrade on the 28 year old Lucas. However, Allen has the ability to put in a strong foot and will look to take Lucas’s injury as an opportunity to do well and cement his position in the squad. The former Swansea player should take inspiration from Mamadou Sakho as the Frenchman found himself wanting for chances and capitalized extremely well when Dejan Lovren got injured. Allen, or the player that comes in for Lucas (perhaps Steven Gerrard, or Emre Can pushed forward from the defence) would need to do incredibly well to shield the defence. Lucas made himself indispensible to Rodgers in recent weeks by covering the back-line with command. Along with doing the ‘dirty work’ for the side, he also did reasonably well to get the attack moving forward by linking well with the likes of Henderson and Coutinho. The same must be done in his absence, or else Liverpool will really feel his absence.
Liverpool need to win the midfield battle
Lucas’s contribution in Liverpool’s current form cannot be understated. His presence meant that the Reds had a “proper defensive midfielder” and not someone who didn’t know what his priorities were. This meant that whenever Jordan Henderson played alongside him in the midfield, his contribution increased as he could play his natural game. When Steven Gerrard operates as a defensive midfielder, Henderson is restricted and can’t contribute more naturally as he is regularly helping Gerrard out.
So whoever comes in for Lucas, that player and Jordan Henderson would have to win the battle in the heart of the pitch. Against Arsenal, Liverpool were able to successfully do that and that meant that the Gunners were not able to dominate the game even once. Tottenham posses an attack with tremendous potential, which was illustrated in the whopping 5-3 win over Chelsea on New Year’s Day. Liverpool’s defenders will want that their task is made a little easier with the midfielders dominating the heart of the pitch. Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb (who performed superbly against Arsenal) have done really well this season and could make Liverpool’s life very difficult by protecting the defence and knitting forward play for the likes of Eriksen, Chadli and Kane. Hence, for Liverpool to come out on top in this game, the midfield battle needs to be won.
Moreno and Markovic or Ibe will need to be as effective as Coutinho and Sterling
Alberto Moreno must be relishing this tie. In the reverse fixture, he scored his first goal for the Reds and a sensational one at that. He also displayed to the Liverpool, his attack mindedness, his pace and the neat finish he possesses. Since that match though, the former Sevilla man hasn’t had exceptional games. He has done well here and there, but hasn’t had one outstanding display. He needs to change it now and Spurs provide a good opportunity. Moreno is expected to go against Kyle Walker on that particular flank and Walker is not one of the strongest full back in the league, so the Spaniard must take this opportunity and ensure he contributes in the attack by supplying crosses, especially if Liverpool start with Daniel Sturridge, linking up with Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling and threatens in the box himself by troubling the centre backs – probably Dier and Vertonghen – and Lloris as well.
On the other wing, one of Lazar Markovic or Jordan Ibe would start. The summer signing from Benfica has settled now and done well in the last few weeks while Jordan Ibe was recalled from loan at Derby County and started instead of the Serbian against Everton, and came back with the Man of the Match award. Both these players possess a lot of potential and either can do a match-winning job. Whoever ends up starting, would need to ensure of providing plenty in the attack and making sure burden is lightened from the shoulders of Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool’s most threatening and attacking players at the moment.