Tottenham Hotspur will cross swords with Liverpool in the Premier League at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday, hoping to make it three straight wins in all competitions.
The north Londoners produced an outstanding comeback to win 3-2 against Bournemouth away last weekend, with the result taking them to third in the table. They followed it up by securing a berth in the Champions League knockout rounds, courtesy of a stoppage-time 2-1 victory over Marseille in France.
Liverpool, on the other hand, were shocked 2-1 at Anfield by Leeds United last weekend but they showed great character to bounce back with a 2-0 victory over Napoli in the Champions League. It has been a poor campaign for the Reds and Jurgen Klopp will want to get some momentum by bouncing back to winning ways in the Premier League.
Without further ado, let us take a look at the key battles that could define the outcome of this high-voltage clash.
#Harry Kane vs Liverpool centre-backs
With Son Heung-min suffering an unfortunate eye-socket injury against Marseille in the Champions League and set to undergo surgery, Harry Kane will have to shoulder the extra responsibility in the Spurs attack against Liverpool.
With 10 goals and an assist in 13 Premier League games, Harry Kane is a man in sublime form and can hurt Liverpool if given an opportunity in the box. With his clever movement and great positioning, the England international can give the Liverpool defenders a torrid time.
Liverpool haven’t been at their best defensively this term, with Virgil van Dijk suffering a dip in form. The poor form of key players and injuries at the back have not helped the Reds’ cause, but having shown real togetherness and robustness in the 2-0 win over Napoli in the Champions League, Klopp will expect more of the same from his defensive unit, especially the centre-backs, against Kane and co. on Sunday.
#Thiago Alcantara vs Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg
At the centre of the park, a midfield battle between Thiago Alcantara and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg could well hold the key to which team will emerge victorious at the end of the 90 minutes.
Lining up possibly on the left side of a midfield three, Thiago will look to set the tempo of the game with his passing, movement and reading of the game. He has got a fantastic passing range, a good engine and a brilliant touch in his armoury. In fact, when the Spaniard plays well, Liverpool generally fly; so he is absolutely crucial to Klopp’s system.
Hojbjerg will have a task on his hand to nullify Thiago’s influence in the game. The Dane, who is one of the first names on Conte’s team sheet, is a good tackler, reader of the game and always willing to put his body on the line for the team’s cause.
So, it will be intriguing to see how Hojbjerg deals with Thiago at the weekend.
#Mohamed Salah vs Clement Lenglet
Mohamed Salah gave a timely reminder against Napoli that his best position at Liverpool lies on the right of a front three.
The Egyptian superstar, who has filled in many attacking roles during Klopp’s experimentation with different systems this season, moved back to his usual spot on the right wing when Liverpool played Napoli in the Champions League on Tuesday. He scored the opening goal in a 2-0 victory and had a good game overall.
So, there is a big possibility of Salah starting in the same position in Klopp’s tried and tested 4-3-3 formation against Spurs. He could come up against Clement Lenglet playing on the left side of a back-three setup.
Despite doing well so far for Spurs, Lenglet is yet to become a mainstay at the back with Conte preferring Ben Davies on the left of a back three. However, things could change after a solid performance and a goal from Lenglet against Marseille in midweek that sealed Spurs’ entry to the Champions League’s knockout rounds.
A good reader of the game, the French defender will have to avoid giving space to Salah and unsettle him quickly in the contest.