Tottenham Hotspur’s match against Liverpool on Saturday is massive. It was supposed to be the opening match in the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but instead it will be held in Wembley, which can seat more of the Tottenham faithful. That may be a good thing for Spurs, as the extra fan support might be needed in what could be Tottenham’s stiffest test yet in this young Premier League season.
Last season Spurs snapped a long winless streak to Liverpool by torching the Reds 4-1 at Wembley in one of the season’s best results. Repeating that result against an in-form Liverpool side that has conceded only one goal in its opening four matches may prove to be more difficult. Jurgen Klopp’s squad has the second highest team xG in the league behind Manchester City, and is sporting the stingiest defense, with a league-leading xGA of 2.15. Mohamed Salah, unsurprisingly, is one of the league’s most productive player through the first four matches.
The Reds have been absolutely lethal from open play this season, and they should rightfully scare the pants off of Spurs fans, especially as they head into this match without the services of Hugo Lloris and Dele Alli. The saving grace is that this will be the first real test for Liverpool this season — their opening wins have come home to West Ham, at Palace, home to Brighton, and at Leicester. Those aren’t cupcakes, but there’s a chance Liverpool fans might be feeling as nervous about playing Spurs at Wembley as Spurs fans are of playing Liverpool.
Tottenham are coming off of a disappointing away loss to Watford in what was otherwise a good start to the season. They have shown an uncharacteristically leaky defense so far this season, but do have offensive weaponry, if they can figure out how to convert their chances at a higher rate: Spurs are currently underperforming their expected goals by a not-insignificant margin. An open game may give partisan fans on both sides heart attacks before the match is over. If history is any indication, this could be a shootout.
How will Spurs line up against Liverpool?
There’s probably never a good time to play Liverpool, and going up against the Reds without your starting keeper and one of your best performers is going to make everything that much more challenging. However, Spurs are still a very good side, and despite the absence of Hugo Lloris and Dele Alli they still have players that can come in and make an impact.
Liverpool’s offense is frighteningly effective, and the 1-2-3 punch of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Roberto Firmino is formidable. For that reason, I think Spurs will maintain the back three formation of Toby Alderweireld, Davinson Sanchez, and Jan Vertonghen. Spurs will likely need all three to be at peak performance to counter Liverpool’s offensive threat. It’d be nice if Michel Vorm could stand on his head as well.
Liverpool have only allowed one goal thus far, and seem to have mostly patched the defensive issues that had been their Achilles heel the past couple of seasons. However, Harry Kane always seems to perform well against Liverpool’s back line, and the introduction of Lucas gives Spurs a different dimension to what they’ve used against the Reds in the past. I can see him giving Dejan Lovren and Virgil Van Dijk plenty of things to think about.
Danny Rose looks like he’s finally rounding out into form and was Man of the Match in England’s friendly win over Switzerland. Poch turned to Danny in Spurs’ last big match vs. Manchester United, and I think he’ll do so again — Danny’s directness and pace may allow Spurs to more effectively attack Liverpool’s back line. On the other flank, Kieran Trippier seems to have locked down the starting right back position, and if Spurs commit to attacking football he could be a difference maker going forward and from dead-ball situations.
The loss of Dele is frustrating, but in his absence I see the return of the Dierbele midfield in the diamond. Spurs have looked weird with Dembele at the six, but returning Dier to the base of the midfield will allow Moose to do Moose things in midfield in a more natural role.
Another option would be to drop one of Dier or Dembele, push Eriksen deeper and bring in Erik Lamela for his pressing ability and through-balls, or bring in Harry Winks in place of Dembele. However, with both Winks and Lamela coming back from injury, I suspect if we’ll see them as substitutes, and not as starters. Same with Son Heung-Min — fatigue may be “an excuse” to Sonny, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s clocked over 50,000 air miles and a whole lot of games in a very short period of time. Son will make a hell of an impact sub against Liverpool, though.
There’s my predicted lineup against Liverpool. What’s yours?