We’re into the third weekend of the Premier League and we have another top game on our hands as last year’s runners up Liverpool travel to Tottenham Hotspur, who have gone under somewhat of a revelation so far this season under new manager Mauricio Pochettino.
White Hart Lane has been a venue where Liverpool have struggled over the past few years and the Merseyside club lost six straight games in North London between 2009-2013, including a 4-0 thrashing in September 2012.
However, the Reds very much reversed their form in this fixture last season, when Liverpool romped to a 5-0 victory against Spurs with goals coming from Luis Suarez (2), Jordan Henderson, Jon Flanagan and Raheem Sterling. Tottenham didn’t do much when they travelled north to Anfield either, conceding just one goal less when losing 4-0 on Merseyside.
Liverpool have been busy this past week in the transfer window, aqcuiring the services of Italian International Mario Balotelli from AC Milan for a fee of £16M. He was ineligible for Monday’s game against Manchester City, however he will be available to make his debut.
Another newcomer to Anfield who is now fit to play is midfielder Adam Lallana, who moved from Southampton this summer for £25M. A knee injury suffered during pre-season has restricted Lallana his chance to make his Liverpool debut however he is back fit and manager Brendan Rodgers has confirmed the England International will ‘definitely be in the squad’ for Sunday’s game.
The away side however could, may well be without two of their first choice full-backs. Recent signing Alberto Moreno made his debut against Manchester City on Monday, but fell awkward on his ankle late on – it looked like a twist however if the swelling has not gone down he is a major doubt. Rodgers could also be without Glen Johnson, who limbed off on Monday’s game holding his thigh.
If both players are out, Rodgers could be well under-fire in those positions – Jon Flanagan and Jose Enrique are also on the sidelines and the Northern Irishman has let Martin Kelly and Jack Robinson go this summer. It’s likely that Javier Manquillo will slot in at right-back, but the Northern Irishman could struggle on the left-hand-side.
As for Spurs, they look to have a similar set-up to their last game. Kyle Walker still remains in the sickroom with a pelvis injury and striker Roberto Soldado will take a late fitness test for his neck and back injury.
Spurs also have one new face who could play a part in Sunday’s game – centre-back Fabio Fazio arrived at White Hart Lane on Wednesday from Sevilla for a sum estimated around £6M. Depending on his match fitness, he could potentially start for his new club however will undoubtedly be benched if he is unfit to play the full 90 minutes.
Last week’s games
It was an under-par performance from Liverpool as they travelled to champions Manchester City and were beaten 3-1. There were several noticeable holes in the Liverpool team – some reoccurring from last season, some new.
Despite Rodgers spending £20M on Dejan Lovren and £16M on Alberto Moreno, there are problems that remain. Lovren was drafted in to organise the defence however he was at fault for Stefan Jovetic’s first goal. Both he and Martin Skrtel must communicate more if Liverpool are to stop leaking daft goals, especially when playing top sides on offer today and Monday.
The Reds also found a new problem in creating chances. The first 30 minutes of the City game was dominated by the away side, however Liverpool did not create clear-cut chances in front of goal, with just Daniel Sturridge having one shot on target that made Joe Hart work.
Spurs were quite the opposite as they ran ragged to a 4-0 home victory over Queens Park Rangers. Tottenham were pretty much in cruise control for the most part of the game and new manager Pochettino got the best out of Nacer Chadli, who failed to make his mark on the side last season.
The North London side played much better more clinical football as opposed to last season – fast passing and quick movement made it a very difficult afternoon for QPR.
Impact on this week’s team news
Mario Balotelli should make a huge impact on the Liverpool team. Daniel Sturridge looked isolated when playing up top on his own, and much improved when Rickie Lambert came off the bench to help him out.
Balotelli has a touch of class to him and if he brings his A game, he will trouble any defender. He should be able to link up with Sturridge from the start, and it will allow the England International to drive at defenders – something he much prefers – than to hold the ball up and wait to be joined by the midfield.
Lallana will also offer Liverpool a different, more diverse role when attacking. Philippe Coutinho has had too under-par games so far and the Reds have been desperate for someone to replace him. Now Lallana is back fit, it will offer the Reds another approach when coming forward that won’t be so predictable and force change in the Tottenham defence.
As for the home side, Fazio – if he starts – will offer a lot of experience at the heart of the Tottenham defence and should be a great addition to stop the likes of Sturridge, Balotelli and Raheem Sterling.
We have a new manager under Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs, who seems to have made an instant impact. He is getting the best out of some of Tottenham’s poor signings last year such as Chadli and Eric Lamela.
However, Spurs are still playing similar football as under Tim Sherwood – attacking and wanting as many goals as possible.
Liverpool were on top of Manchester City for the first third last game, and they are nowhere near against the same opposition here. Balotelli will be a massive boost to the Liverpool line-up and were the Reds couldn’t create chances last game, he will very much add another formula up top.
Raheem Sterling will be key for the Reds again and his pace will cause trouble to the Spurs defence, much like last season’s fixture.
Tottenham look much better set up when going forward under Pochettino, however I expect Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers to really have his defence in much better shape this game.
Spurs didn’t really do much to unsettle the Liverpool defence last season and it’s a similar line-u on offer. I don’t see the home side troubling Liverpool all that much when going forward and the way the Merseyside club dominate away games in the early stages, they should get net within the first half an hour this time and go on from their.
Prediction: Tottenham 0-2 Liverpool (Sturridge and Sterling)
Tottenham Hotspur – Lloris, Rose, Fazio, Vertonghen, Kaboul, Chadli, Eriksen, Bentaleb, Lamela, Adebayor, Capoue
Liverpool – Mignolet, Manquillo, Lovren, Skrtel, Moreno, Gerrard, Henderson, Coutinho, Sterling, Sturridge, Balotelli