Tottenham Hotspur’s long layoff is just about done. When Spurs take the pitch on Sunday against Liverpool at Anfield, it will have been 22 days since their last match. Spurs currently sit in third place on the table, but the space is rather crowded at the moment. Spurs are just a single point ahead of rival Arsenal, three above Manchester United, and four above Chelsea. The race for the final two Champions League spots is going to be a heated affair, to say the least. Meanwhile, the title race is down to Manchester City and Liverpool. While Liverpool are at the top of the table, City are two points back of the Reds and have a match in hand. To talk about the stressful run-in is Mark from The Liverpool Offside. It’s been awhile since we’ve chatted with them, so we talked about the title race, concerns about losing players in the summer, and the difference between Mane and Salah.
CFC: Home stretch time for the title. It’s down to Liverpool and City. What’s the feeling about the run-in and have you stocked up on paper bags to breathe into?
TLO: Back in December, when Liverpool were decimating everyone and caught City’s lead, I made a pack with myself: Everything is zen. No matter what happens, I’m determined to enjoy the ride. Everyone else at TLO blames my positivity for throwing away the lead LFC had on City, but whatever. I’m zen.
But if I told you I wasn’t nervous, I’d be a liar. How can you not be? We’ll likely see 2 teams finish with 2 of the 3 highest point tallies in Premier League history, and one won’t win the title. I was at Anfield for the Burnley match a few weeks ago, and the emotion is palpable. But not just the negative, the positive as well. There’s a belief that no matter what (and yes, that “what” includes losing the title), this team is capable of special things.
CFC: So I guess asking you guys to lose just once is out of a question, right? It’s not something that Liverpool have done much this campaign.
TLO: Yeah. Liverpool don’t lose. Especially at Anfield. The last loss Liverpool suffered at Anfield happened in April of 2017. But, we’re known to draw a few too many games, which could ultimately be the undoing to this campaign.
CFC: Any concern about slipping on the proverbial banana peel like a few years ago with certain fixtures?
TLO: Look, there’s a very real possibility that Liverpool do not win the league. Hell, that possibility may even be likely. But that’s not because of a “slip” up. 2013-14 was a weird campaign built on raw emotion and passion. This campaign is entirely different. Jurgen Klopp has built a machine capable of weathering any storm.
CFC: The Champions League draw was kind to Liverpool for the final eight. Who is your favorite to lift the trophy and how do you feel about Liverpool’s chances?
TLO: You know, with how intense the title challenge has been, it sort of feels like The Champions League has sort of taken the back seat in LFC fans’ minds. But, here we are, in the last 8 after knocking out Bayern Munich who had previously been in 6 of the last 7 semi-finals of this competition. I would say the favorites are, in order: City, Juventus, Barcelona, and Liverpool. I would probably rank Liverpool 2nd if they didn’t have to face Barcelona in the semi-final should they advance.
Liverpool are capable of beating any team on the planet. But competing at a high level in 2 competitions in April and May is a very difficult task.
CFC: Here’s a question we get a lot: If Liverpool whiff on silverware this season, is there any concern about losing players in search of trophies? We all know Real Madrid are preparing to spend all the money in the world this summer.
TLO: Real Madrid are always a concern when they’re willing to spend bazillions on whoever. But, when you get down to the brass tacks, I’m not too concerned. Each member of the Front 3 side new, lucrative 5-year deals within the last 18 months. Keita & Fabinho just arrived. Same with Virgil van Dijk and Alisson. So, the core & spine of this team are intact for years to come.
CFC: It’s been five league matches since Mo Salah has scored. Is it a tactical issue or just a bad run of form for the Egyptian International?
TLO: Can the answer be both? Because the answer is sort of both. But the answer is also sort of neither at the same time. Towards the beginning of this run, Liverpool made a tactical shift from a 4-2-3-1 back to their preferred 4-3-3. Which meant Mo moved from the central striker role, back out to the right. He’s also had some real stinkers, like against Everton. But at the same time, he’s still been incredible at being the main man defenses focus on. Against Watford and Burnley in the league, he picked up a few assists. He was incredible against Bayern in the 2nd leg. I’m not too worried.
I reckon he scores this weekend, just for a bit of karma for asking that question! ;)
CFC: On the flip side, Sadio Mane was in an unbelievable run of form before the international break. Is he more important to the Liverpool attack than Salah this year?
TLO: Sadio is amazing. He’s scored 11 in his last 11 appearances, which I believe is a Liverpool record. I wouldn’t say he’s more important to the Liverpool attack than Salah, but I would say he is as important to the attack. So is Bobby Firmino. I mean, there’s a reason a lot of people consider them the best front 3 in Europe, isn’t there?
But overall, Sadio has done an incredible job of grabbing this team by the scruff of the neck and carrying them over the line when that needs to happen. I don’t think there’s a Liverpool player, or perhaps even a fan, that wants to win this league title more than Sadio.
CFC: What’s the expected lineup for Sunday?
TLO: Actually the first time in a long time Klopp has some choices to make, because he now has a fully fit squad. But, I expect him to go with his tried and trusted 11 for this one.
Alisson; Robertson, VvD, Matip, Trent; Fabinho, Milner, Wijnaldum; Mane, Firmino, Salah.
The three subs will be: Henderson, Keita, and Origi. Maybe Joe Gomez instead of Origi if things are going well in the last 20.
TLO: Been ages since Spurs have won at Anfield, hasn’t it? Think Liverpool see this one out 2-0.
A big thank you to Mark for joining us and breaking a two year drought of chatting with The Liverpool Offside. I did the same thing for them on their site, so feel free to check it out when you get a chance!