As the Premier League seasons moves into the second half, the top half is extremely close. Just 11 points separate Manchester United at the top of the League from Southampton in 10th. It is an extremely close race for the title and top-four places. In such a season, games between the top-six sides are key in terms of the final league outcome. One such key game will take place when Liverpool travel to London to face Spurs. The reigning Champions had won the reverse fixture earlier in the season and Mourinho’s team would like to balance the scale a bit on Thursday.
Spurs’ boss Mourinho had claimed after the game at Anfield that his team had been the better side in that game but were unfortunate in losing. On current form, that certainly holds true. Spurs come into this game having won two, drawn two and lost two in their last six Premier League games. The first of those losses was the game at Anfield. However, in all competitions, Spurs have won five and drawn one in their last six game. The draw was their last home league game – a 1-1 draw against Fulham. In their last league game, they beat Sheffield United 1-3 in Sheffield before beating Wycombe 1-4 (also away) in FA Cup. Their 33 goals scored are fourth highest in the league, but like any high-flying Mourinho team, it is their defensive record, which is allowing them to fly high. They have conceded only 17 goals in 18 games, second only to Manchester City’s 13 conceded goals. A win on Thursday night could propel them to 36 points and help them leapfrog their opponents with a game in hand.
When Liverpool followed up that narrow 2-1 win against Spurs in December, with a 7-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace, most pundits would have expected them to continue their onward march at the top of the table. However, since that game at Selhurst Park, Klopp’s team have scored just one more league goal. That performance has yielded three draws and two losses in the subsequent five league games. It has also meant that the Reds have slipped from the top of the table to fourth, four points behind Leicester and Manchester City. By the time this game is played on Thursday, Everton might have leapfrogged them too and still would have a game in hand. Liverpool come into this game in one of their worst recent runs. Burnley ended their unbeaten home streak in their last league game and rivals Manchester United dumped them out of FA Cup on the weekend. Unless Klopp can rouse his team to turn their fortune around miraculously, it does seem like the second half of the 2020-21 season is going to be a fight for the top-four for the champions, not a defence of the title.
- Spurs have lost their last five league games against Liverpool – they have never lost six in a row against the Reds. On the other hand, Liverpool are looking to win three consecutive away league games against Spurs for the very first time, winning in the previous two seasons.
- This will be the first time Tottenham and Liverpool will meet on a Thursday in the top-flight. Liverpool have beaten Spurs on each of the other six days of the week, and they could become the third team to beat them on all seven in top-flight history after Everton and West Ham.
- Following their 2-0 win against Manchester City last season, Spurs are looking to win consecutive home games against the reigning champions for the first time since beating Manchester United in both 1999-00 and 2000-01.
- Jose Mourinho has some scores to settle with Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp. He has lost his last three league meetings with Liverpool, his longest losing run against an opponent in his top-flight managerial league career. He has only suffered back-to-back home league defeats against an opponent once. And despite facing Klopp only eight times in the league, Mourinho has lost four games against the German.
Harry Kane has made 12 appearances against Liverpool and scored six goals and assisted two. His form in recent games against Liverpool has not been that productive though – he last scored against the Reds in the game at Anfield last season and prior to that in the 2017-18 season. However, this season he is lighting up the league with his goal contribution stats. In 18 games, he has scored 12 and assisted 11. His xG90 of 0.60 and xA90 of 0.30 indicates a 90% chance of him contributing a goal if he plays 90 minutes. Mourinho will certainly hope that his striker can add to his tally on Thursday night.
Even before Liverpool endured their terrible slump in goal-scoring form, Roberto Firmino’s goal-scoring form was under severe scrutiny. While that has only increased over the last few games, Firmino likes to play Spurs. He has scored in four of his last five Premier League matches against Spurs, scoring the winning goal in three of those four games, including earlier in this season. A tally of 5 goals and 3 assists in 19 appearances and xG90 of 0.44 and xA90 of 0.13 reflect Firmino’s troubles. But Klopp might hope that his striker turns around his own goal-scoring form and his side’s form on Thursday night.
Lo Celso is Spurs’ only confirmed absentee, with the muscle injury sustained against Leicester on 20th December. Matt Doherty, Dele Alli and Ben Davies are doubtful for the Liverpool game. The likely lineup for Spurs is likely to be Lloris; Aurier, Rodon, Dier, Reguilon; Winks, Hojberg; Bergwijn, Ndombele, Son; Kane.
For Liverpool, the queue in the injury room seems to have thinned out a bit but it could be a false hope as it has been many times this season. Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk, Diogo Jota, and Naby Keita remain sidelined for sure. Captain Henderson will be assessed ahead of the trip to London. Shaqiri and Curtis Jones offer more options in the midfield. The likely lineup for Liverpool is – Alisson; Trent, Matip, Fabinho, Robertson; Shaqiri, Thiago, Wijnaldum; Mane, Salah, Firmino.
Liverpool are at their worst ebb in a long time and their trip to London presents a major challenge for Klopp’s team. For Spurs, the game on Thursday presents an opportunity to overtake Liverpool in the league table and that too with a game in hand. They might just take it.
Tottenham 2 – 1 Liverpool