Liverpool host Tottenham tonight in what could prove to be a huge game in the title race this season. Jose Mourinho’s men have so far been the ones threatening to usurp the Anfield boys from their Premier League throne, and a win tonight will further enhance the possibility of making that happen.
Liverpool on the other hand will not only want to put Spurs in check, but would want to continue their unbeaten home run in the Premier league which extends back to 2017.
It is that sort of game which has everything at stake, and it is that sort of game that will bring the best out of the top players, creating a host of key battles in the fixture.
With that in mind, therefore, we take a look at the key battles ahead of tonight’s encounter. But before that, let’s look at who could start the game tonight.
Liverpool vs Spurs: Predicted Lineup
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Fabinho, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Henderson, Jones, Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Subs: Kelleher, N. Williams, Phillips, Keita, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Minamino, Origi.
If Matip can’t make it, Phillips will start and Rhys Williams will get a spot on the bench.
Spurs: Lloris, Aurier, Aldeireweld, Dier, Reguilon,Højbjerg, Sissoko, Ndombele, Bergwijn, Kane, Son.
Subs: Hart, Davies, Rodon, Vertonghen, Lo Celso, Moura, Bale.
1. Son vs Trent
Son is in the form of his life and looks like scoring everytime his side breaks on the counter. His sole aim in this game will be to capitalise on any space Trent leaves on the counter attack.
Against Arsenal, Bellerin made the mistake of bombing on and not making it count. Within two passes, Son was bearing down on Holding and curling a stunner past Lloris.
Trent will have to be very disciplined this evening, especially if it is Phillips and not Matip, starting at RCB for Liverpool. Neither has the pace to deal with Son, so leaving them exposed will be a huge mistake.
This wouldn’t be a problem if we would see the Trent that is capable of standing in his own half and pinging 60 yard through balls. The young Scouser was deprived of pre-season as a result of an injury and has had to endure a slow start to the season.
He played himself into form and fitness and started dominating games like we know he can. He was Man of the match against Ajax and Midjtylland and followed by a solid outing vs City where he unfortunately got injured again.
Lookman gave him a hard time last time out and it looked like he was still playing himself back into form. Any signs of rustiness will be punished Son.
2. Salah vs Reguilon+Højbjerg
Another tasty individual battle. Mohamed Salah is quietly in the form of his life too. He’s scored more goals so far than he did at this same stage in that 2017/18 season.
He’s a killer in the box, doesn’t need too many bites to chew off opposition. He’ll come up against Spanish international Reguilon who’s proven to be an astounding piece of business for Mourinho.
He’s fitted in well with the low block defending Spurs have utilised this season and crucially, offers them pace and a final ball on the counter. Expect him to defend deep but join the attack when there’s a chance to counter.
He won’t be alone in trying to stop Salah though, he’ll be backed up every step of the way by Mourinho’s latest bulldog. Mourinho loves a snarler.
From Makelele, to Essien, to Mikel, to Pepe, to Ander Herrera, etc. He’s found a kindred spirit in the former Southampton enforcer. He’ll follow Mourinho’s instructions to the gates of hell if he has to.
He’ll be tasked with doubling up on Salah to prevent him cutting into the box. Højbjerg is quick, strong, tireless, switched on tactically and somehow gets away with so many fouls without a booking. Salah will have to be at his best to evade his attention. Getting him booked early will go a long way in blunting his bite.
3. Harry Kane vs Fabinho or Phillips
Harry Kane is in ridiculous form this season. Everything he touches turns to goals or assists. Even simple five yard passes turn into assists because Son is galloping 40 yards and bending one in the top corner.
He has a very good scoring record at Anfield and will be looking to notch his first win at the ground. He likes to pick on the CB he deems “weaker” so it’ll be Fabinho if Matip plays, or Phillips if Matip is injured. He’ll back himself to dominate Fabinho in the air, but if it is Phillips, he’ll have a rude awakening.
He’s the poster boy for English football so expect him to win so many soft free kicks, maybe even a penalty. Fabinho definitely can’t be tackling like he loves to do. Kane is a proper diver and he’ll milk every contact to get a decision his way.
Fabinho has been rock solid most of the time since stepping in to the breach left by Virgil Van Dijk. He’s kept Werner, Vardy and a host of other tricky strikers quite so far and he’ll need to be on his game to add Kane to the list.
If Phillips plays though, I expect Kane to win even more free kicks cos he’ll use his nous to suck Phillips in when going for an aerial duel and then dive as soon as there’s contact.
Aside that, Phillips should easily tower over him and dominate him in the air. One the ground though, is another issue entirely. Kane has the pace to leave Nat behind if it came to a foot race, not to mention the intricate combination play to bamboozle the inexperienced Liverpool centre back.
Jurgen Klopp will be hoping Joel Matip will take however many injections he needs to step unto that pitch to play for Liverpool this evening.
4. Sadio Mane vs Serge Aurier
Serge Aurier can match Mane for pace and physicality, but one area he can’t match him in is common sense. An example was on show when Aurier clumsily kicked through the back of Mane’s leg in an attempt to clear a ball late on.
A penalty was duly awarded and Liverpool completed their comeback to win 2-1. Aurier is an athlete, he’s an impressive specimen. His stamina and engine to go up and down that wing is admirable.
But he can make some boneheaded mistakes from time to time. To be fair, he’s cut out the errors and made that RB/RWB spot his own. Competition from summer signing Doherty has had the desired effect it seems, and tomorrow night he’ll get his toughest test of the season.
Sadio Mane is unlike any winger/wide forward he would have faced this season. Mane’s combination of skill, pace, mentality, strength and ruthless finishing makes him the best left winger in world football. He’ll be ably supported by flying fullback Andy Robertson and it’ll be again down on Steven Bergwijn to track those runs.
But even the best go through dry spells and Mane is currently on one. His last goal for Liverpool came in the 0-5 thrashing of Atalanta which feels like ages ago. His performances haven’t been that bad though, and he’ll be looking to combine a good performance with a return to the scoresheet.
What better way to return to form than to do it in the biggest game of the season so far. If there’s anything I’ve learnt watching the Senegalese winger for the past four years, it’s you never bet against Sadio Mané.
5. Jordan Henderson vs Tanguy Ndombele
The last battle I’ll look at is between two midfielders who can turn a game in favour of their sides on their day. Ndombele had some teething problems when Mourinho first took charge but he’s slowly grown into the role expected of him by the Portuguese tactician.
Curiously, he only plays for 65 minutes at a time before being replaced by Lo Celso. In this fixture last season, Sissoko dribbled past Henderson and Wijnaldum early on after the Liverpool skipper gave away possession cheaply early on.
That dribble exposed the Liverpool defence and a pass to Son had him running at Trent who allowed him to cut in. His shot deflected off Lovren, hit the crossbar and rebounded to Kane for an easy tap in. Such is the potency of dribbling past a midfield press, it just opens up space.
And if there’s one thing Ndombele excels at, it’s dribbling. He’s almost a carbon copy of former Lilywhites fan favourite Moussa Dembele. A big guy who’s strong, has pace and dribbles for fun.
To prevent him from cutting through the middle will be the duty of Liverpool captain and reigning Football Writers’ Player Of The Year, Jordan Henderson. The Sunderland native has been in pretty good nick himself this season and provides the drive and leadership his team builds on.
He’ll have several clashes with the Spurs man and will have to win his personal duel to offer a conduit to victory for his side.
A war with several battles
This fixture is like a war with several battles and the side to win more of these battles will certainly be victorious on the day. Will Mourinho’s Spurs maintain their top spot, or will Liverpool end their unbeaten run? Only time will tell.