Tottenham will hope to cut the gap between themselves and leaders Leicester City by winning in Saturday’s late kick-off, but face a great test of their title aspirations as they take on Liverpool at Anfield.
The home side have had two weeks to reflect on their epic collapse at Southampton, where they appeared to be sailing to victory thanks to a dynamic and incisive first half showing, but then fell apart after the break as a 2-0 lead morphed into a painful 3-2 defeat. The return of Martin Skrtel after injury had far from the desired effect, and he was right at the centre of the chaos as poor defending cost them dearly, a return of the spectre that had apparently been eradicated by a newfound sense of solidity.
Watching from the sidelines, the whole episode must have been immensely concerning for manager Jurgen Klopp, who will have noticed a mental fragility among his team. Going forward in the first half they looked excellent with Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge in full flow, but such ability counts for little if the Reds are misshapen at the back, so they cannot afford to give Tottenham any encouragement here in a game they have to win in order to remain in European contention.
Unlike their opponents, Tottenham headed into the international break in ideal fashion by sweeping aside the challenge of Bournemouth with the help of a first-minute goal from Harry Kane. The striker went on to score another in the win, and in doing so he became the Premier League’s leading scorer for this season; a very impressive feat, and one which has coincided with his all-round game coming on in leaps and bounds.
Along with teammate Dele Alli he shone in an England shirt during the break, playing a prominent role in the win in Germany. The duo have formed a fine combination and are constantly linking up effectively. It is something that Liverpool will be determined to prevent, but Spurs have so many talented players at present that they may just have the edge here. Having seen the way Southampton wrested back control from Liverpool a fortnight ago, the crucial role here could be played by Mousa Dembele in his position as a deep-lying playmaker.
Liverpool are boosted by the return of James Milner following suspension, but are without Christian Benteke while Roberto Firmino is doubtful.
Toby Alderweireld is set to play for Tottenham despite missing international duty through injury, but Erik Lamela is unlikely to play a part due to picking up an injury while with the Argentina squad.
Last Meeting: Mario Balotelli scored his only Premier League goal for Liverpool to secure victory in an enthralling match in February 2015 after the visitors had equalised twice. A low shot from Lazar Markovic evaded the reach of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to open the scoring, before Harry Kane’s reply. Steven Gerrard’s penalty kick and Mousa Dembele’s close range effort brought it to 2-2, but Balotelli had the final say.
Played for both – Robbie Keane: The veteran Republic of Ireland international was a hero at Tottenham over two spells with the club which totalled eight and-a-half years, with the best moment coming in 2008 when he helped to win the League Cup. Overall he scored 91 goals in 238 league appearances, but it was much more difficult for him at Liverpool, where he struggled for confidence in front of goal and returned to North London after barely six months.