After four matches played Liverpool are sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League with a perfect record and only a single goal conceded, but they’ll be in for a tough test tomorrow when they square up with Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley as they return to the scene of one of their worst defeats in recent memory.
Although the 4-1 loss in North London served as something as a catalyst to turn the Reds season around, it was still a day to forget in the capital as Spurs smacked their visitors around the park. Hitch this particular embarrassment in the Big Smoke alongside away-day losses to both Manchester clubs as well as Chelsea and it’s pretty safe to say that the Reds will need to improve their record away from home against the big sides if we want to get anywhere close to challenging for the title. Now that might sound a bit too dramatic too early in the campaign, but this is a big one for Jurgen Klopp’s side.
“For me, Liverpool are one of the best teams in Europe, not only in England,” mused Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino, speaking to the press ahead of Saturday’s showdown. “They have very good players and a great manager,” added the Argentinian. “It is going to demand a lot of energy from us – and to have a very good performance if we want to be close to winning.”
Coming through the international break mostly unscathed, the Reds are expected to put out essentially the same side that ran out 2-1 winners over Leicester City last time out. Really, the only questions come in midfield where any one of Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum could find their place taken by Naby Keita. Fabinho, who hasn’t made a competitive appearance for the Anfield outfit since moving from AS Monaco this summer, is expected to be on the bench as the Brazilian continues to get acclimatised to both the Premier League and Klopp’s demanding style of high-octane football.
A front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane picks itself while a back-line of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson in front of Alisson is the only plausible line-up barring any last minute injuries.
While the Merseysiders made it through with a minimum amount of fuss, Spurs, on the other hand, didn’t fare quite as well and will be missing a number of key players in England midfielder Dele Alli and French ‘keeper Hugo Lloris as they recover from hamstring and thigh problems respectively. Son Heung-min, who helped South Korea to the gold medal at the Asia games, will be fit to face the Reds, but there are questions around the fitness of star striker Harry Kane with suggestions that the 25-year old is burnt out only furthered by his half-hearted performances against Spain and Switzerland.
To me, that sounds like a challenge from his critics that Kane is more than capable of answering. Keeping him quiet will be key to keeping Spurs at bay and the impressive (and still budding) defensive partnership of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are almost certainly up to task, but cutting off service to him will be priority number one — and when you’re up against the likes of the aforementioned Son and Christian Eriksen, that’s a real task.
“It’ll be a very hard and tough game,” said van Dijk. “They’re a very good team, but we are as well,” said the Dutchman, sounding confident. “It’s going to be very interesting, but I am looking forward to the challenge.”
And, a challenge it will be. Without blathering on about revenge and whatnot, I’ll go out and say that we’re got a point to prove at Wembley — one that we’re more than capable of doing.