Liverpool v Tottenham: Assessing the two teams by position

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Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino

Liverpool and Tottenham crossed roads last June, but since the Champions League final, the two teams have gone their separate ways.

Jurgen Klopp’s European champions are unbeaten in the English top flight this season and host a Spurs side with just 11 Premier League wins in 2019 from 27 games.

Spurs were revived in midweek after swatting aside Red Star Belgrade 5-0 in the Champions League, although, the Reds enjoyed their own boost, following a drab 1-1 draw with Manchester United, by impressively disposing of Genk 4-1.

The press-intense nature of the two sides has naturally led to plenty of comparison, and so with that in mind, we assess the two likely XIs heading into a massive clash at Anfield on Sunday.

GOALKEEPER

Liverpool – Alisson

Tottenham – Paulo Gazzaniga

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Obvious advantage to Liverpool here as Alisson’s return last weekend from a calf injury suffered on the opening night has brought about defensive security.

That hasn’t played out in clean sheets yet, but the Brazilian’s ability on the ball is the base of Liverpool’s attacks and acts as a release valve for the defenders.

Add to that his composure in one-v-one situations, plus his shot-stopping athleticism, and it’s easy to see why Alisson is considered among the top tier of goalkeepers.

Gazzaniga on the other hand is the understudy to Hugo Lloris and there’s a reason he’s the number two – none of his traits represent an upgrade to the sidelined club captain.

WINNER – Liverpool

FULL-BACKS

Liverpool – Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson

Tottenham – Danny Rose, Serge Aurier

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Rose has been consistently bad, Aurier conversely lurches from wrecking ball to reckless.

Spurs used to be hallmarked by their strength at full-back with Kyle Walker and a younger Rose providing piercing pace in both directions, teasing crosses and an embrace of the team’s hurtling tempo.

Now a position of strength has become a weakness. Both Rose and Aurier have been at fault for goals in recent fixtures – the former against Watford, the latter against Brighton and Bayern Munich.

They’ve also offered nothing going forward in terms of vivacity or ingenuity, which is a problem considering how crucial width from the full-backs is to Spurs’ narrow corridor everywhere else.

Liverpool’s Plan A of attack is tied to their full-backs. They push high and wide with Alexander-Arnold a playmaker from right-back and Robertson a devilish crosser of the ball from the left.

Spurs might well operate in a similar tact to United with a 3-4-2-1 to suppress the obvious threat and push the two full-backs as far away from the byline as possible.

WINNER – Liverpool

CENTRE-BACKS

Liverpool – Virgil van Dijk, Dejan Lovren

Tottenham – Jan Vertonghen, Davinson Sanchez, Toby Alderweireld

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Joel Matip is a big doubt so Klopp will likely utilise the same pairing he used against Genk.

Van Dijk is going will have to keep Lovren on a toddler’s rein because when he was out of the Dutchman’s eyesight and pulled out to the right-wing against Genk, he defended as if against one man, when it was actually two and the hosts scored.

That type of brain-dead error is prevalent in Lovren’s game and it’s against Tottenham he endured his nadir for Liverpool. The Croatian was substituted after 30 minutes of the October 2017 contest, brutally exposed for two goals in a 4-1 defeat.

With him in the side, the centre-back comparison actually evens up slightly.

A back-three containing Vertonghen, Sanchez and Alderweireld – in writing at least – looks pretty strong.

Vertonghen’s long diagonal deliveries out of the back have caused Liverpool problems in the past, while Sanchez’s athleticism combined with Alderweireld, who remains a quality player despite his ambiguous future potentially clouding his judgement this season, makes for a strong three.

WINNER – Tie

MIDFIELDERS

Liverpool – Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum

Tottenham – Harry Winks, Moussa Sissoko

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There’ll be some debate over the make-up of both midfields, mainly in personnel for Liverpool and a shape-dependent Spurs.

Despite the impressive displays of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita in midweek, it’s likely Klopp will revert to his stock big-game midfield trio of Fabinho, Henderson and Wijnaldum.

Henderson sets the standard in terms of effort while also shuttling to cover for Alexander-Arnold when he pushes high. Wijnaldum’s press resistance will be key against the Spurs press, albeit a fading one, while Fabinho is a pivoting wrecking ball.

The presence of the Brazilian is key here, he’s the best in the Premier League at his position and as Klopp noted, he practically held the midfield on his own against Genk.

On the other side is one of English football’s finest midfield talents in Winks.

The 23-year-old is the tempo-setter as his composed persona and passing between the lines knits defence to attack.

Moussa Sissoko can be unplayable, but he has also negatively impacted games against Liverpool, missing a sitter in this fixture last season and conceding a penalty in the final.

WINNER – Liverpool

FORWARDS

Liverpool – Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah

Tottenham – Son Heung-min, Harry Kane, Dele Alli

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The double-goal displays of Son and Kane against Red Star were the biggest plus points for Pochettino heading to Anfield.

Son was absolutely irresistible, scattering defenders about the pitch as if tripwire was attached to his feet.

There was a swagger to the South Korean and a joy which has been siphoned from him and the rest of the team in recent weeks.

There are doubts over Kane as well and his ability to dominate games having been buckled by ankle injuries last season.

But he was brilliant in the Champions League pointing to a potential reset.

Harking back to that 2017 win over Liverpool brings back a reminder of what Alli can produce at his best, too. He was all-action that day, scoring and throttling the Reds’ midfield. Perhaps re-watching film from that day can help him rediscover his form.

As for Liverpool, Mane is one of 2019’s most in-form players, Firmino is an absolute ghost for defenders and Salah warmed up on his injury return late against Genk.

Liverpool’s front three is the best in world football and they’ve contributed to 19 Premier League goals already this term.

WINNER – Liverpool

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