Not too long ago, the Premier League title race was being touted as a triangular contest between the favourites and holders Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. But, as the league action returns this weekend after the international break, it is increasingly clear that the title is a matter that will have to be settled between City and Liverpool, while the third-placed Spurs will actually have to duke it out with the other members of the Big Six to stake a claim to a Champions League qualification spot. On Sunday night, in what promises to be a thrilling encounter, Liverpool will host Spurs in an attempt to maintain their lead at the top, while Spurs (61 points) will hope to maintain their lead over Arsenal (60 points) and Manchester United (58 points).
Liverpool are both to be credited as well as blamed for their league position. At the start of the season, if anyone had given the Reds’ fans the option of Liverpool being top of the league, with 7 games to go, they would have gleefully accepted it. But, had anyone at the turn of the year, suggested that Liverpool will be just two points ahead of City, who have a game in hand, they would have been dismissed as negative. But that is exactly where Jurgen’s Reds find themselves. In a position, where even if they win all their remaining games, City might still pip them to the title. Recent away form in the league is one of the reasons for Liverpool’s title chances being out of their hands. But at home, the Reds are truly proving to be invincible and they will be thankful to the schedule that their remaining “tough” games (two against Big Six) are at home. To keep their title chances alive, it is imperative that they do not drop any more points, especially at home.
If Liverpool’s problem is too many draws, Tottenham’s problem is of too many losses. Spurs have drawn only once but they have lost nine games out of 30. That they find themselves third despite those losses is because of their 20 wins. However, Tottenham are winless in their last four Premier League games (L1 D3). It has been more than 7 years since they went on a streak of five winless games in the league. The recent results have made sure that what was looking like at least a comfortable top-four finish for Spurs is in jeopardy. By the time the game is played on Sunday, it is likely that Manchester United are sitting just below Spurs tied on points. A very heavy loss is a long shot, but if that is how the trip to Anfield pans out for Pochettino’s men, it is possible that when the game weekends on Monday night, Spurs find themselves out of the top-four.
- Liverpool have enjoyed historic supremacy at home over Spurs. The Reds have lost just one of their last 24 home Premier League games against Spurs (W15 D8 L1), a 0-2 defeat in May 2011.
- In the recent past as well, Spurs have not been too successful against Liverpool. They have won just one of their last 12 Premier League games against the Reds (W1 D4 L7), winning 4-1 at Wembley in October 2017.
- Of course, this season Liverpool have been one of the two best sides in the league. Only Manchester City (19) have won more points than Liverpool (13) in Premier League meetings between the “big six” this season, while Manchester United (6) have won fewer points than Tottenham (7) in such matches.
- But at last it seems that Liverpool have started conceding at home. They have conceded six goals in their five Premier League home games in 2019, as many as they had in their previous 17 at Anfield.
- But that does not mean that they have been suffering losses. Liverpool are unbeaten in last 36 league games at Anfield and will match Manchester City’s record of 37 unbeaten games at home if they do not lose on Sunday.
Despite Sadio Mane’s red-hot form, Mohamed Salah is the leading Liverpool player according to Whoscored ratings. Of course, Mane’s recent form has allowed him to pull level next to Salah at 17 league goals. Salah is goal-less in all competitions since February 09 and has assisted just one goal (against Bayern in Munich) since then. However, he is still Liverpool’s most attacking players putting in 3.52 shots per 90 minutes. His xG90 and xA90 of 0.62 and 0.29 respectively, suggest that if he plays full 90 minutes, there is almost a 90% chance of him contributing a goal. His stats clearly suggest that he has been unlucky in front of the goal recently and Jurgen Klopp will be hoping that the luck turns for his talisman of last season.
Harry Kane loves to play at Anfield. He has contributed four goals (3 scored 1 assisted) in four appearances at Anfield. Like his fellow golden boot competitors Salah and Mane, Kane too has scored 17 goals in the league and assisted four. He is also the scorer of Spurs’ last four goals in all competitions. An xG90 of 0.61 and xA90 of 0.18 indicates a very high probability of Kane contributing a goal if he plays for the full 90 minutes. Kane will also arrive at Anfield in high spirits, having scored in both his international outings during the break.
Liverpool will be sweating over the injuries to Trent Alexander Arnold (back), Xherdan Shaqiri (groin), and Naby Keita (knock). Despite the slight doubts over all three, it would not be surprising to see all of them in the match-day squad on Sunday. Joe Gomez and Oxlade-Chamberlain are getting fitter but might not be available for Sunday’s game.
Tottenham will be ruing the international break as both Eric Dier and Serge Aurier sustained injuries on international duty. Kyle Walker-Peters also took a knock for the England U21s against Germany on Tuesday night and will be assessed, but Harry Winks is also out, with Victor Wanyama set to start.
By the time this game kicks off, it is likely that Manchester City will be one point ahead of Liverpool in the table. That will be a major incentive for the Reds to go for a win on Sunday. Similarly, as explained above, Tottenham could find themselves on the verge of going out of top-four if they do not win. The high stakes involved will make the game interesting. But the fact that Spurs will be compelled to attack will play into Liverpool’s hands, as will the Anfield atmosphere. These factors should hand Liverpool a crucial victory on Sunday.