Tottenham host Liverpool in Jurgen Klopp’s first game in the Barclays Premier League at White Hart Lane on Saturday.
The German replaced Brendan Rodgers as Liverpool’s manager and expectedly, the build up to the game is around the 48-year-old tactician.
Adeshina Aderele Ajayi (AAA), our guest this weekend, is not yet 48 or training to be a soccer tactician, but he’s in awe of the former coach of Borussia Dortmund.
“All eyes will be on the talismanic Klopp,” the market research expert said.
“I can’t wait to see him in action. I can’t wait to see the new Klopp in town.”
Before you conclude that AAA is a biased soccer analyst, hear this:
“The euphoria of landing the German might have made people forget that Tottenham are in great form at the moment. They will also be facing the Merseyside team that will be regrouping under the new manager. The timing might not just be right for the Reds.”
But the time is right for AAA to preview our star match and also offer his predictions of the remaining fixtures.
The international break came at a bad time for Spurs as the side was just beginning to gather momentum. Tottenham, along with Everton and Leicester, are the only teams to have lost just one game in the league this season. They sit in the eighth position with 13 points in the league table just one point ahead of Liverpool.
One point is not much but then you and I know that the league table doesn’t tell the whole story. Spurs have been steadily improving under Mauricio Pochettino and recently pummelled Manchester City 4-1.
By contrast, Liverpool have seemingly been in reverse after their title challenge in 2013-14, winning just two of their last nine games including a Capital One Cup game against Carlisle, when they needed a penalty shoot-out to squeeze past the League Two side at Anfield. But the good news is that Liverpool have done well against Tottenham under Brendan Rodgers – they won the last five encounters.
Moreover, the home side will be without the talismanic Eric Dier who has impressed in his new midfield role. He is suspended for one game for picking up his fifth yellow card of the season. The problem is only compounded as Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason will also miss the game with injuries. But the biggest blow for Spurs is that summer recruit Son Heung-Min is out for another six weeks due to the ankle injury he picked up against Man City.
Liverpool have their own injury worries too. Summer recruits Danny Ings and Joe Gomez are both ruled out for the season with injuries. Christian Benteke, Roberto Firmino, Jordan Henderson and long-term absentee Jon Flanagan will miss the game as well because of injuries.
There will be battles all over the pitch as well as on the touchline with Klopp in town! I will rather focus on three on the pitch, though.
Philippe Coutinho v Dele Alli
Our “stolen” player, Dele Alli has progressed in leaps and bounds for Tottenham this season. He will miss his usual midfield partner in Eric Dier so he’s most likely to partner with Mousa Dembele and the responsibility to contain Liverpool’s main attacking threat Coutinho will lie on their shoulders.
But since that opening day stunner against Stoke City, Coutinho‘s form has actually been a little patchy so far this season.
That’s not to say the Brazilian has been poor by any means – he has looked Liverpool’s most creative player time and time again – but he has failed to influence a number of matches.
Alli, the man tasked with stopping the 23-year-old has become a very effective midfield option for Pochettino, and has been key to Tottenham’s success.
Coutinho will likely be given license to roam, and Alli keeping a close eye on him will surely be something Pochettino has worked on ahead of this game.
Alberto Moreno v Erik Lamela
The battle between Moreno and Lamela will pit two highly rated youngsters against each other and who comes out on top may have a big bearing on the final outcome of the match.
Moreno has been in good form of late as a left wing-back while Lamela finally looks to be worth the £30 million Spurs paid Roma in 2013.
Lamela is a tricky right-sided player capable of beating a man and drifting onto his left foot, so Moreno will have to be focused for 90 minutes.
He has suffered several costly lapses in concentration in the past, but he’s improving.
Daniel Sturridge v Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen
Sturridge is gradually getting back to form since his return from injury, but in Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, the England international will come up against one of the league’s in-form defensive duos.
The Belgian centre-backs have been ever-presents in the league so far this season and have been the main reason why Spurs have conceded just seven times in eight matches to date – no team has conceded less.
Despite their great form, Sturridge should provide them with one of their sternest tests of the campaign.
In the absence of his strike partner, Danny Ings, Sturridge will be expected to bear the goal scoring burden for his team-mates at White Hart Lane.
Alderweireld is a versatile player, so this battle may well not happen as he might feature in the midfield in the absence of Eric Dier. And that will be good news to Liverpool because he has established himself in the centre of Spurs’ defence alongside compatriot Vertonghen.
HEAD 2 HEAD (last five games)
Tue 10/02/15 BPL Liverpool 3-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Sun 31/08/14 BPL Tottenham Hotspur 0-3 Liverpool
Sun 30/03/14 BPL Liverpool 4-0 Tottenham Hotspur
Sun 15/12/13 BPL Tottenham Hotspur 0-5 Liverpool
Sun 10/03/13 BPL Liverpool 3-2 Tottenham Hotspur
KEY STATS (from OPTA)
Liverpool have won five successive league matches against Spurs for the first time since 1976; this is the 145th league clash between the sides, but neither has ever won six in a row.
Liverpool have scored exactly once in eight of their last 11 league matches.
Tottenham’s last five Premier League home defeats have all been by a one-goal margin; the last team to win by more at White Hart Lane were Liverpool (3-0 in August 2014).
Spurs are the only Premier League team not to have lost since the opening weekend (W3 D4).
The last time Spurs lost six consecutive games against the same PL opponent was against Newcastle United between 2006 and 2008.
Gerard Houllier is the only Liverpool manager to win his first Premier League game in charge at the club (2-1 v Southampton in 1998, he was joint-manager with Roy Evans at the time).
Tottenham’s last five Premier League home defeats have all been by a one goal margin; the last team to win by more at White Hart Lane were Liverpool (3-0 in August 2014).
Since his Premier League debut in Sept 2013, Christian Eriksen has scored more direct free-kicks than any other player (6).
Liverpool have scored exactly once in eight of their last 11 league matches.
Daniel Sturridge scored three times in five PL games against Spurs before moving to Anfield but has failed to net in four appearances against them for the Reds.
The Reds have only won one of their last nine Premier League away games (D4 L4).
Roberto Firmino has had five shots in total in the Premier League and has hit the woodwork twice.
A win could see Liverpool go above Spurs in the table. But I don’t expect that to happen despite Klopp and the loads of positivity he has brought with him. The hosts are in a good form and they should win against a depleted Liverpool side. Sorry, Jurgen! 2-1
PREDICTIONS OF OTHER FIXTURES
Chelsea 2-1 Aston Villa
Manchester City 3-0 AFC Bournemouth
Southampton 1-1 Leicester City
Everton 1-0 Manchester United
West Brom 0-0 Sunderland
Crystal Palace 1-2 West Ham
Watford 0-2 Arsenal
Newcastle United 2-2 Norwich City
Swansea City 1-0 Stoke City