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Liverpool vs. Tottenham Hotspur Preview: Destiny cannot be controlled

Spurs need a win at a place they never win in order to keep their fate in their own hands.

Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur got back on track over the weekend, beating Leicester City 3-1 to stay two points back of Arsenal for all-important fourth place. The task gets substantially harder this Saturday, as Spurs travel to Anfield, a place they have not won since 2011 and have lost three straight years in a row.

Of course a draw would be preferable to a loss, but Tottenham really needs all three points here. Even with a North London Derby win next week, Spurs would need another Arsenal draw or loss in one of its other three matches should they not pick up a win against Liverpool. In that scenario (Arsenal max of 70 points), there is actually not really a difference between a draw or loss on Saturday (Tottenham max of 71 or 70 points, respectively, which is moot given the current goal difference gap).

Beating Liverpool has been Spurs’ unobtainable conquest, with just one win (fall 2017) in the past 18 league matches. The squad has been refreshed and managers have come and gone, but the end result is nearly always the same. However, Tottenham was the better team in December’s draw, so maybe the task is becoming more realistic. This would be quite the time to break this terrible streak.

Liverpool (2nd, 82pts) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (5th, 61pts)

Date: Saturday, May 7
Time: 2:45 pm ET, 7:45 pm UK
Location: Anfield, Liverpool, England
TV: USA Network (USA), BT Sport 1 (UK)

Liverpool are as scary as ever. After getting past Villarreal this week in the Champions League semifinals, the Reds have a legitimate opportunity to win their three remaining competitions. This club has been a thorn in Tottenham’s side for the past decade, and the current iteration of the team nothing to mess with.

That being said, December’s draw has to provide at least some hope. Spurs’ 3.4 xG that day was easily the most allowed by Liverpool this season, and the attacking band of Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son, and Dejan Kulusevski was sprung back to life against Leicester, just in time for a crucial week ahead. The first fixture was quite open and offered opportunities on both ends, and this type of contest likely fits Tottenham’s squad best.

Both Kane and Son were actually a bit flat against Liverpool last time, despite Spurs nearly snagging the win. This weekend, everyone is going to have to be in great form, including the midfield, which has been a big issue in the recent poor results. The Liverpool will be a challenge, but there will be some counterattacking opportunities as always. It may be cliche to say, but Antonio Conte really just needs his squad to take advantage of every possible chance.

Three themes

  1. To speak of actual tactics, Conte trotted out Lucas Moura last weekend, which was a bit of a failure in the sense of the winger’s performance, but on the whole it worked out by resting/reinvigorating Kulusevski, who made a substantial impact as a substitute. Are there more levers to pull this week? If so, it probably will come in the form of an interesting choice at wingback, as neither of the penciled-in starters has really yielded many dividends in the final third.
  2. As mentioned above, both of Spurs’ main attackers left something to be desired against Liverpool in December, but both did find the scoresheet in the wild 2-2 draw. Kane opened the scoring from a perfect Tanguy Ndombele through ball, while Son equalized off a comical Alisson misplay. Both have shown the propensity to change matches plenty of times this season, and big players have to step up in the biggest moments.
  3. Touched on the table up front, but just to detail it out: Arsenal host relegation candidate Leeds on Sunday. Should Spurs lose or draw and Arsenal win, they will enter Thursday’s derby down four (or five) points, meaning they would still need Arsenal to falter once in the last two matchweeks. If this weekend does go as expected, that will put a ton of pressure on Tottenham, knowing that even a North London Derby win would not be enough to control its own destiny. Yikes.