Tottenham will resume their chase for the title on Saturday when going up against a Liverpool side that have been the cause of plenty of painful memories for the club in recent years. Spurs sit second in the Premier League table, five points behind Leicester City going into the final seven games of the season. If they are to keep the pressure on with the surprise leaders, Mauricio Pochettino’s side will need to emerge from Anfield with three points, something the club has done just once in 22 years.
Tottenham have suffered particular punishment at the hands of the Merseysiders recently, notably two seasons ago when on the receiving end of 5-0 and 4-0 defeats. Those emphatic scorelines came as part of an unlikely title surge from Liverpool, something which Tottenham are now replicating this campaign. But, whereas Liverpool ultimately felt painfully short of the ultimate prize, Tottenham retain hope of a first title in 55 years.
“We need to try and win every single game and wait for Leicester to drop points,” Pochettino said ahead of the match. “But we have no focus on the seven games, we are focused on Saturday, the most important game. We try to win the game and wait to see what happens in another stadium.
“We are focused on our game try to perform well and win and wait to see what happens because it doesn't only depend on us but 99 per cent it depends on us to fight until the end of the season for the title.”
Tottenham’s success this season has been built upon the success of a selection of young players, who impressed once again over the international break. In particular, Harry Kane and Dele Alli starred for England against Germany while Danny Rose also made his international debut in the match. The fact that Erik Lamela was away with Argentina in World Cup qualifying action, however, means he is a doubt for the match. Toby Alderweireld, though, will be available after missing Belgium’s matches through illness.
Liverpool went into the international break on the back of bitter disappointment after throwing away a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 at Southampton. The result severely dented their hopes of making a late run for a Champions League place, leaving them down in seventh place. And, while Klopp insists Saturday’s match remains important for his side, he acknowledged that for Tottenham it is of massive significance.
“We’re looking forward to a really, really important game, for both sides,” Klopp said in his pre-match press conference. “Maybe for Tottenham it is something like a final only if they lose so they have to win it to put pressure on Leicester. Usually it’s not important for us to think about the situation of the other team, but in this special case I think it makes sense to think about it, to know about it, so that means it’s a final and we have to be ready.”
Klopp will be without Christian Benteke, after the striker picked up a knock while away with Belgium. Divock Origi should be available after recovering from a similar problem, while Roberto Firmino faces a late fitness test to assess whether he can return from a hamstring strain that kept him out of the defeat to Southampton.
Prediction: Klopp’s first match in charge was the goalless result at White Hart Lane in October when the pressing of the two teams largely canceled each other out. It was easy to think at the time that it would be Liverpool who would improve far more significantly in the coming months. Instead it has been Tottenham that have made the bigger strides. Tottenham’s young core has developed a superb understanding both of each other’s roles and their own within Pochettino’s pressing system. Meanwhile, as the defeat to Southampton showed, Klopp is still trying to implement his intense style on a consistent basis, something which may not be resolved until the summer transfer window.
Saturday’s match, though, should be a close and entertaining fixture, with a draw a distinct possibility. Yet Tottenham’s midfield superiority, though, may just give them a vital three points.
Predicted score: Liverpool 1-2 Tottenham
Kickoff time: 12:30 p.m. EDT
TV channel: NBC
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra