The FourFourTwo Preview: Tottenham vs Liverpool
The coming of the Normal One.
- Swansea 2-2 Spurs (Prem)
- Monaco 1-1 Spurs (EC)
- Spurs 4-1 Man City (Prem)
- Spurs 1-2 Arsenal (LC)
- Spurs 1-0 Palace (Prem)
- Everton 1-1 Liverpool (Prem)
- Liverpool 1-1 Sion (EL)
- Liverpool 3-2 Villa (Prem)
- Liverpool p1-1 Carlisle (LC)
- Liverpool 1-1 Norwich (Prem)
So where were you when… y'know? Jurgen Klopp’s arrival on these shores has created a buzz unprecedented by any previous managerial appointment, with his maiden Liverpool press conference managing to melt the heart of even the most hardened cynic. Klopp and Liverpool seem made for each other emotionally, but the 48-year-old’s gifts extend far beyond mere words and the early gut instinct is that, if he is afforded time, he stands a far better chance than most of taking the club back to the top.
His task begins at White Hart Lane on Saturday lunchtime and, videos about gegenpressing theories dutifully sat through, the country will expect to see Liverpool behave as if they've been fed rocket fuel for brunch. In reality it won't be that simple – Klopp isn't helped by a lengthy injury list and a squad of players that you suspect will need some tweaking in January – but if any coach can engender a 'new manager bounce' it is surely him. It's hard to envisage a performance as passive and sterile as some of those towards the end of the Brendan Rodgers era with the German in charge.
- FEATURE 5 players who could sink under Klopp – but 6 others who'll love it
- FEATURE What it’s really like working for Klopp, by those who've done it
- FEATURE The making of Jurgen Klopp: the bearded wonder who forced Pep to betray his principles
- FEATURE 8 pieces of Jurgen Klopp managerial genius for Liverpool fans to drink in
- FEATURE Training time, tactics tweaks and enduring love: How Klopp averted a crisis
Tottenham are unlikely to be obliging first opponents, though. A sluggish and fairly dull start to the season has turned into a good one after a 10-game run in all competitions that has brought just one defeat, although their last two games – draws at Monaco and Swansea in matches they dominated – have reared the question of how much killer instinct they possess when Harry Kane is off song. The England international is still struggling for form this term, with just one Premier League goal to his name, and sliced into his own net at the Liberty Stadium – so it is fortunate that Christian Eriksen scored two marvellous set-pieces in that encounter to give Spurs some reward for their control. When Son Heung-min is back, they should have a decent number of creative options, and there are signs that Mauricio Pochettino is moulding his team into a discernible shape and style.
Will that be enough to stem the Klopp tide? Liverpool have humiliated Tottenham in their last two visits, winning 5-0 and 3-0, but it is difficult to foresee anything quite as spectacular this time around. The Reds have won five consecutive meetings between the pair, though, and their new manager will be apprised of that fact as he looks to kick-start their campaign. Whatever happens, you can be sure that his every move will be examined minutely.
Klopp has been dealt an early blow with the news that forward Danny Ings and left-back Joe Gomez are both likely to miss the remainder of the season with cruciate knee ligament injuries. Jordan Henderson still a few weeks from returning, while Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke will miss this one too, but Dejan Lovren and – crucially – Philippe Coutinho could both be fit to play.
Son Heung-min won't be back from injury for the hosts, joined by Nabil Bentaleb, Danny Rose and Ryan Mason on the sidelines. With both sides hampered by absentees, it's all about who copes best.
Key battle: Christian Eriksen vs James Milner
Milner will be crucial to Klopp’s high-intensity style, particularly with Henderson missing, and if he starts as one of a deep midfield pair he will have plenty to deal with in the form of a rejuvenated Eriksen.
The Danish midfielder has struggled with injury this season, but his performance at Swansea – quite apart from his two wonderful free-kicks – was one of the best from any attacking midfielder in the Premier League this term. He will need to be shackled firmly by Milner, who will also be required to help Liverpool get on the front foot from deep.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- L’pool 3-2 Spurs (PL, Feb 15)
- Spurs 0-3 L’pool (PL, Aug 14)
- L’pool 4-0 Spurs (PL, Mar 14)
- Spurs 0-5 L’pool (PL, Dec 13)
- L’pool 3-2 Spurs (PL, Mar 13)
This meeting is a role reversal of stereotypes. Klopp is the high-voltage, passionate ball of touchline emotion that one might more commonly associate with a South American manager; Pochettino, conversely, cuts a calm, studied figure in the German mould both in and away from the dugout, rarely giving too much away and certainly not lending himself to press conference pronouncements of the type that instantly endeared Klopp to his new public.
But Pochettino’s stock is high in this country too at the moment: his handling of new England international Dele Alli has drawn praise, and the young squad he has built gives genuine hope for the future. His obsession with stamina and fitness is well-known and, for all that he might be outwardly the opposite of his new counterpart, the tempo and invention on show this Saturday might demonstrate that in method these two aren't so different after all.
Facts and figures
- Spurs are the only Premier League team not to have lost since the opening weekend (W3 D4).
- Roberto Firmino has had 5 shots in total in the Premier League and has hit the woodwork twice.
- The last time Spurs lost 6 consecutive games against the same Premier League opponent was against Newcastle between 2006 and 2008.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Not quite enough to set headline writers’ hearts a-flutter again but Klopp gets a reasonable early handle on his team’s good and bad sides in a 1-1 draw.