The Premier League returns from the international break this weekend, with one of the title contenders – Liverpool visiting another title contender – Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley. The League is notorious for being a difficult league title to defend. Manchester City this season have already made their task a little bit harder by falling behind with a draw against Wolves. Tottenham have the chance to catch up with their Red rivals if they beat them, while Liverpool can put distance between them and Spurs if they win on Saturday.
Tottenham were enjoying a very good start to the season in their first three games when they were jolted back to reality by Watford at Vicarage Road last game week. It is not often that Spurs’ attack finds itself blunted so well that even their one goal from that game was an own goal from Watford’s Doucoure. However, prior to that loss, Spurs have been brilliant. They have already beaten a top-six side in Manchester United and Pochettino will hope that the team that emerges from the tunnel on Saturday lunchtime is the one that outplayed United at Old Trafford and not the one that could not breach Watford’s defence.
Liverpool on the other hand, are at the top of the league with four wins in four matches. But Spurs are their first game against a Top Six opponent. This fixture is also the start of a gruelling period for The Reds as they face Spurs, Chelsea (twice), PSG, Napoli and Manchester City in six of their next seven fixtures. Jurgen Klopp will be relieved that his team enters this period in a position of strength, as Liverpool lead in almost all positive stats in the league – from the league table itself to xG to packing rate. If they come out of these seven fixtures, especially the Premier League ones, without dropping too many points, then they will be genuinely considered title contenders. For that to happen, they have to start the period well and that means trying to win or at least draw in a fixture where they were soundly beaten last season.
- Tottenham have won only one of their last 11 Premier League games against Liverpool (D4 L6). That one win was the emphatic 4-1 victory last season in this fixture. Despite their seeming dominance, however, Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp are yet to beat their hosts (D2 L1).
- This is a goal-rich fixture. Liverpool and Tottenham have scored 149 goals in all their Premier League meetings, which is just two less than the most – 151 goals in all Premier League matches between Arsenal and Everton. This is, however, the most penalty-rich fixture – 22 penalties have been awarded in all Premier League matches between The Reds and Spurs.
- Liverpool have won their opening four games of a league season for the first time since 1990-91. There have been only two top-flight seasons in their history where they have won the opening five games – 1990-91 and 1978-79. If Liverpool win on Saturday, they would have won six in a row, their first such streak since the 11-win run in 2013-14.
- Tottenham could not keep their perfect start going as they lost to Watford in game week four. They have not suffered consecutive Premier League losses since the final two games of the 2015-16 season.
Harry Kane loves to play against Liverpool. In his last seven appearances against The Reds, he has contributed seven goals (5 goals, 2 assists). Of those five goals he has scored, four have been scored in the last two games. Generally, it is believed that Harry Kane’s scoring abilities are jinxed in August. But, he has broken that jinx this season, and anyway, August is over. Kane is ninth in the League in terms of xG and has already scored 2 and assisted one goal. With the in-form Moura to partner Kane at the top, Liverpool’s defence is likely going to be stretched, making the English striker that much more dangerous.
Mohamed Salah was the person that got Kane to claim feather-light touches as goals last season. Such was the competition for the Golden Boot last season. This season too, the rivalry is well and alive. Mohamed Salah has also contributed 3 goals in his four appearances (2 goals, 1 assist). Salah also leads the League in terms of xG (3.11) – one full expected goal more than Kane. His xG90 + xA90 amounts to 1.27, i.e. in current form it is more than 100% sure that Salah will contribute at least one goal if he plays 90 minutes. Furthermore, he loves to play against Spurs. He scored three goals in two games against the London side last season.
For Spurs, Pochettino could bring in Eric Dier in the midfield at the expense of Moussa Dembele. The latter was on the bench during the loss at Watford. Hugo Lloris, Dele Alli, Moussa Sissoko and Erik Lamela will be assessed ahead of Saturday’s match. Spurs will be hoping that the injury that Dele Alli suffered during the break is minor and that he will be available on Saturday. Pochettino also has the services of Son Heung-min at his disposal as the Korean has returned from Asia Cup duty.
For Liverpool, international breaks are always dreary periods that the fans and the club somehow try to get over with. Two of their players suffered injuries during this break as well – Adam Lallana and Simon Mignolet, both pulled out of their international squads. But, given that Klopp has made only one starting XI change in four games, it is unlikely that either of these two will be missed. Other absentees for The Reds are long-term injured players including Oxlade-Chamberlain and Dejan Lovren.
As mentioned earlier, this fixture is traditionally a goal-rich fixture. It has also been drawn a lot lately. Saturday’s game promises to be a spectacle of attacking football, with two of the most attacking sides in the league going head to head. But, it is also highly likely that both of them will be an equal match for each other and cancel each other out.
Tottenham Hotspur 2 – 2 Liverpool