Verdict: Total goals under 2.5
Best odds: 13/10
Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are set to clash head-on on Wednesday evening at Anfield, in a game that will be the a part of the 13th round of the Premier League roller coaster this season and looks set to decide which team will be topping the table from that point on.
Liverpool won the Premier League title last season after three decades, and already the task of defending it is proving extremely difficult. Injuries have been hitting them hard from the start, but they’ve also had some truly woeful performances this term, even with the team almost complete. They were thoroughly hammered by Aston Villa in early October, they were deservedly beaten at Anfield by Atalanta in the Champions League, and their first-half showing against Fulham at Craven Cottage on Sunday was just as bad.
However, there have been some great games from Jurgen Klopp’s team as well, most notably the destruction of Atalanta in Bergamo, the win over Leicester City and the one over Wolverhampton Wanderers. What Klopp will have been pleased the most about in these circumstances is how a number of young players came into the fold and have proven themselves worthy – centre-backs Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams, right-back Neco Williams, but most notably midfielder Curtis Jones who appears to have established himself as a regular part of the starting XI lately.
And despite all the troubles, the Merseysiders won their Champions League group and will face RB Leipzig in the round of 16, and they are currently second to Spurs on goal-difference in the Premier League. Their last-six record in all competitions stands at two wins, three draws and one defeat.
It has now become a regular feature of Liverpool team news to say that centre-backs Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez won’t be playing any time soon. Joel Matip, who also had his share of injury problems this term, was replaced at halftime against Fulham reportedly due to back pain, so it remains to be seen if he’ll be passed fit for this game. If not, it will be either Phillips or Rhys Williams alongside Fabinho in the heart of defence. Backup left-back Kostas Tsimikas is also injured.
Thiago Alcantara (knee) and James Milner (hamstring) won’t be a part of the midfield, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was on the bench at Craven Cottage and could be given some minutes, though probably as a substitute again with Jones set to keep his place. The forward line will be without Diogo Jota (knee) and Xherdan Shaqiri, which leaves no doubt whatsoever that Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino will all start, along with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson on the defensive flanks and Alisson Becker in goal.
Jose Mourinho has indeed turned Spurs into a ‘result machine’, as Klopp said in his pre-match press conference. They have become a classic Mourinho team – they defend extremely well with every member of the team doing his part in protecting their box, and they usually hit back with extremely direct play with an in-form duo of Son Heung-min and Harry Kane. The two forwards have linked with each other for 12 of Spurs’ goals in the Premier League this season – the record stands at 13 (Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton in 1994/95) and it’s only December.
Indeed, the season seems perfect for such an approach, with every team that usually plays attractive, attacking football struggling with form and injuries and bemoaning the extremely hectic schedule. Will Mourinho in his turn, like Klopp before him, end his club’s long, long wait for the title? Only time will tell, of course, but Spurs certainly seem capable at the moment.
The north-Londoners top the table with 25 points so far, as many as Liverpool in second but with a much better goal-difference. They won their Europa League group and will face Austrian Bundesliga side Wolfsberger AC in the round of 32, being, of course, strong favorites to progress. They’ve won three of their last six matches in all competitions, drawing the other three.
Gareth Bale has returned to the club on loan from Real Madrid after seven years in the Spanish capital, but he is a doubt for this match through a bout of illness (not Covid-19), according to Mourinho himself. Fellow winger Erik Lamela has been ruled out, still recovering from a calf injury, as well as defender Japhet Tanganga who has a problem with his shoulder.
Lloris will be in goal, with the back four of Toby Alderweireld, Eric Dier, Serge Aurier and Sergio Reguilon ahead of him. Moussa Sissoko and Emile Hojbjerg will likely be the pair providing protection to the defence, with Tanguy Ndombele in a slightly advanced midfield role. Kane is nailed on to lead the attack, of course, flanked by Son and probably Steven Bergwijn.
With Liverpool not looking their best recently and Spurs mostly relying on a strong defensive approach, this game isn’t very likely to yield many chances, and consequently goals as well. The contest could go either way, and it will probably depend on who scores first, if any goals are scored at all. If it’s Liverpool, Spurs will have to abandon their defensive style and move forward in search of an equalizer, which might help the home team get through their lines more easily. On the other hand, if it’s the visitors, rest assured that Mourinho will have them build their own little fortress inside ‘fortress Anfield’, which hasn’t seen Liverpool lose a Premier League game on 65 consecutive occasions.
Verdict: Total goals under 2.5
Best odds: 13/10
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