Tottenham Hotspur will be looking to continue their winning run when they play hosts to reigning Premier League champions, Liverpool, on Thursday.
Liverpool will be under the microscope once again as they lock horns with Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League on Thursday. The defending English champions have had a miserable start to 2021, with their only victory coming against Aston Villa’s inexperienced team in the FA Cup.
The Reds were subsequently knocked out of the competition by Manchester United on the weekend, in what was their second consecutive defeat and third in their last five competitive matches. They are also winless in the league since a 7-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace in mid-December.
As a result, the Merseyside giants are currently out of the top four heading into this game and a win will be imperative as they look to remain in the title race. Their midweek opponents Tottenham, have had contrasting fortunes though.
After losing their way a little, midway through the campaign, the Lilywhites have bounced back impressively and have secured five wins in their last six competitive matches, including 4-1 thrashing of Wycombe Wanderers in the 4th round of the FA Cup.
Such a remarkable run of performances have catapulted Jose Mourinho’s men back into the top-four race. A win against Liverpool could even help them overtake West Ham United and bridge the gap to third-placed Leicester City to just two points – making this an equally important game for the home side.
And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their enticing encounter in north London this midweek.
Team News & Tactics
Thanks to an impressive depth in the squad, Mourinho had the privilege of resting several key players against Wycombe on Monday. He is set to recall those players into the starting eleven, including the deadly offensive duo of Son Heung-Min and Harry Kane. Even Gareth Bale is making a case for being included in the first-team, though the Welshman is unlikely to get the nod ahead of Steven Bergwijn.
These three are set to play on the counter, using their seemingly telepathic combination play to get the better of the depleted Liverpool defence that has looked quite vulnerable, of late. A key cog in providing that extra bit of creative punch going forward could be Tanguy Ndombele, who is set to operate in the number ten position.
Harry Winks and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg ought to line up in the midfield double-pivot, with the latter returning to the side after coming on as a second-half substitute against Wycombe. The Dane’s ability to sense danger and clear loose balls in midfield, along with the tendency to deliver darting forward passes could cause problems for the opposition this midweek.
Mourinho is likely to ring in the changes in the defensive unit, as well, with Joe Hart, in particular, making way Hugo Lloris in goal. In fact, Toby Alderweireld could be on the only defender retaining his place in the starting eleven as Spurs welcome Serge Aurier, Sergio Reguilon and Eric Dier back into the starting eleven.
A lot could depend on how Tottenham start this game. An early goal for the hosts, for instance, could see Mourinho employing a deep defensive line, with Hojbjerg dropping deeper than usual. Playing without possession shouldn’t be a problem for a Spurs side, who have lethal counter-attacking weapons like Bale, Son, Kane and Bergwijn.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Aurier, Alderweireld, Dier, Reguilon; Hojbjerg, Winks; Son, Ndombele, Bergwijn; Kane
Liverpool are sweating on the fitness of club captain Jordan Henderson heading into this game. The club has confirmed that the midfielder is back in contention after returning to full fitness, but whether or not he will be given a start by Jurgen Klopp remains to be seen.
Unfortunately, the German tactician might be forced to rush Henderson back into the starting eleven as Liverpool have indeed missed that extra bit of aggression in his absence. He should, therefore, occupy the holding midfield role, with additional support from the two more attack-minded midfielders in Thiago Alcantara and Georginio Wijnaldum.
Liverpool are yet to win a game in which Thiago has started, and the former Bayern Munich star will be desperate to break that unfortunate record this time around. His distribution, technical prowess and link-up play could be key for the visitors in this game.
Moving ahead in the final third, Liverpool are still missing Diogo Jota and given the importance of this tie, Klopp is likely to deploy his strongest possible attacking unit. As such, we can expect Mohamed Salah to feature alongside his usual partners in Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane as they look to break the shackles of the Tottenham defence.
A major weak point could be the two attack-minded full-backs in Aurier and Reguilon. Hence, Salah and Mane could end up playing a key role with their runs in behind the backline.
As far as their own defensive line is concerned, Klopp is likely to recall Joel Matip after resting him against Man United in the FA Cup. The former Schalke captain is set to partner Fabinho at the heart of the four-man backline, with additional support from the two usual full-backs in Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Fabinho, Robertson; Thiago, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane
1. Full-Time Result – Tottenham or Draw @ 1.61
1. Under 1.5 Match Goals @ 3.900
- Tottenham have lost their last five league matches against Liverpool – they have never lost six in a row against the Reds.
- Liverpool are looking to win three consecutive away league matches against Spurs for the very first time, winning 2-1 in 2018/19 and 1-0 2019/20.
- This is the first time Tottenham and Liverpool have ever met on a Thursday in the top-flight. Liverpool have beaten Spurs on each of the other six days of the week, and they could become the third team to beat them on all seven in top-flight history after Everton and West Ham.
- Following their 2-0 win against Manchester City last season, Tottenham are looking to win consecutive home games against reigning Premier League champions for the first time since beating Manchester United in both 1999-00 and 2000-01.
- Only Man City have scored the opening goal in more different Premier League games than Tottenham this season. Spurs have lost none of their 12 games when scoring first but have dropped 10 points from such games.
Player to Watch
Amid the presence of such quality midfielders this week, Tanguy Ndombele could stand out the most with his performance. The Tottenham midfielder is already heading into this game on the back of an excellent run of form, having notably being involved in all of his side’s three goals in the second half against Wycombe Wanderers.
The Frenchman has the ability to penetrate opposing defences with his exquisite control over the ball. He is also capable of providing that defence threading through pass, which could be useful for a Tottenham side, who are likely to play on the counter on Thursday.
In addition, Ndombele is an excellent ball-carrier and could give Thiago a serious run for his money. Therefore, it won’t be surprising to see the former Olympique Lyon midfielder emerge as the ultimate game-changer.
Tottenham 1-1 Liverpool
Liverpool have shown very little promise in recent weeks, particularly in terms of their penetration in the final third. And things could get even tougher against a Tottenham side who usually defend in deep-blocks. Hence, this could turn out to be a tight, low-scoring fixture, with both sides likely to create chances mainly on the counter rather than using long spells of possession.
We are expecting the Lilywhites to inflict more misery on the opposition, thanks to their world-class offensive duo of Son and Kane, with additional creative support from Ndombele. This game should ideally end in a low-scoring draw.