Race for Champions League spot unites Liverpool and Tottenham ahead of Premier League clash

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Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur will be separated by just two points, but united in one ambition when they meet at Anfield on Sunday with a top-four finish imperative for both.

Failing to earn a Champions League place could stall the steady progress overseen by Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino.

Klopp’s men hold a marginal advantage as they sit third, two points ahead of Spurs, who are fifth, as the race to finish in the three places behind runaway leaders Manchester City intensifies with Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal also in contention.

“The situation in the table, our targets, what we want to do and where we want to finish the season, it’s clear it is a very important game,” Klopp said on Friday, “These are these kind of six-point games.”

However, while Premier League clubs splashed out a record £430 million ($612 million, 491 million euros) in the January transfer window, Liverpool and Tottenham were more discerning than their rivals for the top four.

Despite making Virgil van Dijk the most expensive defender in football history through a £75 million move from Southampton, Liverpool still closed the window with a huge profit following the sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona for £142 million.

Likewise, in spite of Lucas Moura’s late capture on deadline day from Paris Saint-Germain, Spurs remain in the bottom half of the Premier League table when it comes to net spend on transfers this season.

That relative lack of financial muscle, in particular compared to the two Manchester clubs, explains why Klopp and Pochettino have been widely lauded for the jobs they have done despite so far failing to win any silverware in England.

The need to keep moving forward makes qualifying for the Champions League a minimum goal.

“With Jurgen Klopp I think there will be pressure this time next year depending on where Liverpool are,” former Liverpool captain Jamie Carragher said on Sky Sports.

“But if he gets Champions League football this season I think it’s a very good season for Liverpool.

“You can talk about trophies and winning the Premier League, but Liverpool have got to get back to being a Champions League club. Liverpool have been in the Champions League twice in 10 years.”

Plagued by inconsistency

Mohamed Salah 7

The similarities don’t stop there as both sides have played some outstanding football, but been plagued by inconsistency.

Liverpool inflicted City’s only Premier League defeat of the season in thrilling fashion 4-3 two weeks ago, only to follow-up by losing to Swansea in the league and West Bromwich Albion in the FA Cup.

A dominant 2-0 win over Manchester United in midweek got Spurs back in the hunt for the top four and was reminiscent of the displays that swept Liverpool and Madrid aside at Wembley earlier in the campaign.

However, recent draws with Southampton, who are in the bottom three, and West Ham, continued a habit of dropping crucial points against struggling teams.

The prospect of missing out on Champions League football would be even more untimely with Spurs set to move into a new 61,500 capacity stadium next season and only further fuel rumours that Pochettino and Harry Kane and Dele Alli, all reportedly courted by Real Madrid, could be tempted away.

Spurs are boosted by the return of two internationals, Ivorian Serge Aurier and England’s Harry Winks, from injury, but Moura isn’t expected to start at Anfield having made just six appearances all season for PSG.

Van Dijk is set to return to the Liverpool line-up after being rested in midweek with Dejan Lovren, who was substituted after just 31 minutes of Liverpool’s 4-1 thrashing at Spurs back in October, dropping out. 

Provided by AFP Sport

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Harry Kane's away record spells danger for Liverpool as Spurs travel to Anfield

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Liverpool will no doubt be seeking revenge for a 4-1 defeat at Wembley earlier this season when Tottenham visit Anfield on Sunday.

The Reds recovered from back-to-back defeats against Swansea City and West Brom to secure a comfortable 3-0 win over Huddersfield in midweek.

Meanwhile, Spurs put in an excellent display on Thursday to beat Manchester United 2-0.

Liverpool top scorer Mohamed Salah is on the brink of yet another milestone while Tottenham’s talisman Harry Kane boasts some impressive stats himself.

Here, we look at the key statistics and match facts ahead of Sunday’s clash including Kane’s stunning goal-scoring record away from home.

– Liverpool have lost one of their last 23 home Premier League games against Spurs (W15 D7).

– Spurs have only lost more Premier League away matches at Old Trafford (21) than they have at Anfield (16).

– Spurs haven’t done the league double over Liverpool since 2010-11, with Harry Redknapp’s side beating Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish. The last time Liverpool lost both league games to Spurs with the same manager was in 1986-87 (Kenny Dalglish).

– Liverpool are unbeaten in each of their last 14 Premier League games at Anfield (W8 D6) – they last went on a longer run in December 2016 (17 games).

– Spurs have won seven points from their last nine available on the road in the Premier League (W2 D1 L0), after collecting just one point from the previous 15 up for grabs (W0 D1 L4).

– Jurgen Klopp is unbeaten in his last 12 home Premier League meetings against the ‘big six’ (W6 D6) since a 1-0 defeat to Man Utd in January 2016.

– Klopp has lost just one of his six encounters in all competitions with Tottenham as a manager (W2 D3 L1) – although this defeat came in the reverse fixture this season at Wembley (1-4).

– Harry Kane has had a hand in six goals in six Premier League appearances against Liverpool (four goals, two assists), including three in the reverse fixture this season (two goals, one assist).

– Kane has scored 18 goals in his last 13 Premier League away games, netting at least twice in six of the eight matches in which he found the net in this run.

– Mohamed Salah has scored 19 Premier League goals in 24 games this season – the quickest a player has got to 20 goals in the competition for Liverpool is 27 games (Fernando Torres and Daniel Sturridge).

– Since the start of December, Roberto Firmino has been directly involved in 11 goals in 11 Premier League appearances (8 goals, 3 assists). Indeed, overall the Brazilian has scored 11 goals in 24 games this season, equalling his best scoring season in the competition (11 in 35 in 2016-17).

Statistics provided by Opta

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Man City players being butchered by 'awful' tackles, says Raheem Sterling

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Raheem Sterling claims Manchester City are being “butchered” by bad tackles.

The England international also fears he or a City team-mate could miss the World Cup if stronger action is not taken to prevent potentially damaging challenges.

A number of the Premier League leaders’ players have been on the receiving end of controversial tackles in recent months, with manager Pep Guardiola repeatedly calling for referees to provide better protection.

Last weekend Leroy Sane was caught by a late studs-up slide from Cardiff’s Joe Bennett and now faces up to seven weeks out with ankle ligament damage.

In midweek Brahim Diaz escaped injury after being hit high by West Brom’s Matt Phillips while, in the same game, James McClean also made a cynical attempt to foul Kevin De Bruyne before a goal.

Guardiola has made his point often enough that he did not feel the need to revisit the issue as he held a press conference on Friday, but that did not stop one of his key players speaking out.

Brahim Diaz

Sterling, himself hit by a bad tackle from Tottenham’s Harry Kane in December, said: “I find it a bit unfair at times.

“I feel that we haven’t been protected enough in certain situations. I think some of the challenges have been awful.

“It’s not what I expect to see in a top-flight football match, especially when teams are losing and just go out to kick players. I don’t think that’s right.

“I do think we need to cut down on that because we’ve got a World Cup at the end of the year and majority of the players in the top flight, and in our team, will be playing in it and it would be sad to see someone miss the tournament due to a silly tackle and someone get away with it.

“There are going to be challenges that are badly timed and probably not all of them are intentional but at the same time if it’s a dangerous tackle, it’s a dangerous tackle and I think the referees and officials need to cut these tackles out because, as you can see, some of the players are getting butchered, butchered out there and it’s sad to see.”

In terms of his own game, Sterling is enjoying the best season of his career having scored 19 goals and laid on six assists for quadruple-challenging City.

Pep Guardiola gestures

The 23-year-old said: “It’s the environment I’m in. I’m just loving it and hopefully that can keep happening.”
Guardiola said of Sterling’s form: “He’s a young player but I think he has shown amazing things at difficult stages this season.”

City face Burnley on Saturday but then do not play again until hosting Leicester the following Saturday, their longest gap between games since the November international break.

Guardiola will give his players a break.

He said: “From Saturday afternoon until Wednesday afternoon the doors of the CFA (City football Academy) will be closed. We need to not see each other! They can travel, they can do whatever they want. For three days they have to forget a little bit about football.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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