Thursday, January 20, 2022

Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur vs Liverpool

Verdict: Away win

Best odds: 4/7

Bookmaker: Unibet

Liverpool are scheduled to travel to North London on Sunday to face Tottenham Hotspur at the stadium bearing the club’s name. Scheduled, but it remains to be seen whether the match actually goes ahead.

Five Premier League matches that were supposed to take place this weekend have already been postponed due to COVID-19 outbreaks in several clubs, but this one, for now, remains on, so let’s take a look at.

Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs entered the season with a new manager, former Wolverhampton Wanderers boss Nuno Espirito Santo, and having won the first three matches of the league campaign, with defending champions Manchester City their first victim, it seemed they were on the right track from the start. However, things soon took a turn for the worse, and a subsequent bad run of results prompted the club to sack Espirito Santo and replace him with Antonio Conte. The experienced Italian tactician soon realized and said it openly, that there was a lot of work to be done.

Be that as it may, Spurs are currently in seventh place in the Premier League table with 25 points, just four less than arch-rivals Arsenal in fourth with three matches in hand, which is certainly not that bad all things considered. Their matches against Leicester City, Burnley and Brighton and Hove Albion have all been postponed through a COVID-19 outbreak, and once they are all played, more will be known about their prospects for the season. But at the moment, it seems that even a return to the Champions League is not out of reach, providing they hit form soon.

Speaking of form, it’s very difficult to make out, given that Spurs played their last game to date on December 5th. For what it’s worth, their last-six run in all competitions consists of a 3-2 win at home over Vitesse in the European Conference League, a goalless draw away to Everton, a 2-1 win over Leeds United at home, a shocking 2-1 defeat away to Slovenian side Mura in the ECL, a 2-0 win at home over Brentford and a 3-0 win at home over Norwich City. On that day, Lucas Moura, Davinson Sanchez and Son Heung-min all hit the target.

As for the Conference League, Spurs’ final match of the group stage, at home against Rennes, was called off late and it still remains to be seen how the situation is resolved. Spurs have apparently offered to play the match in France again instead of London, but the final decision is yet to be made. A win would have Conte’s team finish second in Group G, but anything else would mean elimination.

Team News

The players unavailable for the Liverpool match through COVID-19 are left-back Emerson Royal, forward Son Heung-min, wingers Lucas Moura and Bryan Gil, midfielder Oliver Skipp and 17-year-old striker Dane Scarlett.

Left-back Sergio Reguilon has had a muscle issue but there is a strong chance he will be ready for Sunday, but it will be a while yet before centre-back Cristian Romero returns from the thigh injury he suffered on international duty.

Unless there are further positive tests within the squad before kick-off, Hugo Lloris should be captaining the side from his position between the posts, with Davinson Sanchez, Eric Dier and Ben Davies the obvious choice to form the back three. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg will likely be just ahead, providing protection, with Harry Winks by his side, but things become a bit murkier further up the pitch.

Harry Kane should, of course be leading the line upfront, but with both Son and Moura out, there aren’t too many options for his support. Possibly a combination of Ryan Sessegnon and Steven Bergwijn, but Conte will no doubt have some kind of an idea of his own.

Liverpool

Things have been going much better for Liverpool this season. They are the team to have scored the most goals in the Premier League so far (48), and they’ve lost only one match in all competitions. Unlike with Spurs, the Merseysiders are a reflection of complete stability when it comes to the role of manager, with nobody at the club remotely unhappy with the work Jurgen Klopp has done since coming in in October 2015.

At the moment, Liverpool sit in second place with 40 points, just one less than Manchester City at the top and three more than Chelsea in third. It seems it’s going to be an exciting race between these three contenders for the title.

It’s gone even better in the Champions League for the Reds so far. They utterly dominated their group, winning all six matches against Atletico Madrid, FC Porto and AC Milan, and they await a double-header against Inter Milan in the round of 16.

Liverpool’s last six matches in all competitions were six wins. They beat Southampton at home by 4-0, Everton away in the Merseyside Derby by 1-4, Wolverhampton Wanderers away by 0-1, AC Milan away by 1-2, Aston Villa at home by 1-0, and eventually Newcastle at home on Thursday by 3-1. Diogo Jota scored an equalizer after former Red Jonjo Shelvey opened the scoring for the Magpies in that match, Mohamed Salah scored his team’s second, and Trent Alexander-Arnold blasted a thunderstrike from 25 yards to set the final score.

Team News

Liverpool have also been hit by COVID-19, with centre-back Virgil van Dijk and midfielders Fabinho and Curtis Jones testing positive just ahead of the Newcastle game. Naturally, all three remain unavailable for the Spurs trip.

Midfielder Harvey Elliott has been missing for a while having suffered a broken ankle and he’ll be out for a while yet. Centre-back Nathaniel Phillips fractured his cheekbone in the Milan match and remains unavailable. But providing there are no more positive tests between now and Sunday afternoon, the rest of the squad should be at Klopp’s disposal.

In the absence of Van Dijk, Joel Matip and Ibrahima Konate are set to continue as the centre-back pair, flanked by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson. Neco Williams and Kostas Tsimikas will, however, be hoping that the boss decides to give his first-choice fullbacks a rest. With no Fabinho, the presence of Jordan Henderson in the middle of the park will be vital, and Thiago Alcantara is expected to start by the captain’s side again. Naby Keita will be vying with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for the third midfield spot. Upfront, Roberto Firmino could be given a start, having made a substitute appearance against Newcastle after hamstring injury, but Klopp might not want to leave Jota out and risk breaking a potential scoring run. Sadio Mane and Salah will surely be attacking from wide positions.

Conclusion

It’s a difficult situation for Spurs at the moment. They’ve obviously been very unlucky with the notorious virus wreaking havoc in their ranks, and a game against title-chasing Liverpool could not have come at a time more wrong for them. Liverpool, of course, have problems of their own, but not to the same degree and even if they did, they are the team with more overall quality. In fact, Spurs have not been able to avoid defeat against this particular opponent since February 2018, and they’ve played against them seven times, including the 2019 Champions League final.

Verdict: Away win

Best odds: 4/7

Bookmaker: Unibet

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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