Mauricio Pochettino doesn’t like playing Liverpool. The Tottenham manager has guided his team to some memorable successes during his three years in charge, but he has never got the better of the Reds. This Sunday, he will aim to rectify that as Spurs welcome Jurgen Klopp’s Reds to Wembley in the weekend’s headline fixture in the Premier League.
Both sides are coming into the match off the back of satisfying results in the Champions League. Spurs admirably held Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw while Liverpool made remarkably light work of Maribor in a 7-0 demolition of the Slovenian side.
Although Pochettino has never beaten Liverpool, Spurs have been in excellent form in the league recently and will be confident of clinching three points as they aim to keep pace with Manchester City and Manchester United at the top of the table.
RealSport look at three key battles that may decide Spurs v Liverpool on Sunday.
Harry Kane v Dejan Lovren
Arguably the most intriguing battle of the tie, Liverpool’s Croatian centre back will have his hands full with the Premier League’s deadliest marksman. Although Lovren has improved of late, he faces the unenviable task of keeping Kane quiet in his current form.
Kane has taken 50 shots in the league this season, 18 more than any other player. Against Lovren, who only manages 0.2 blocks per game, the England international will fancy his chances of adding to his tally of six goals.
Spurs have struggled to score at Wembley this season, so Lovren may be quietly confident of shutting Kane out. That said, the 24-year-old only requires the slightest sniff of a goal to pounce, so it will take a herculean effort from the Liverpool man to stop him.
Philippe Coutinho v Hugo Lloris
The Brazilian will spend most of the match trying to unpick the lock in the Spurs defence, creating chances for Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, who has a habit of scoring against the Llilywhites. However, Coutinho also averages 4.8 shots per game – more than any other Liverpool player.
With that in mind, Hugo Lloris will need every to use every inch of his 6ft 2in frame to keep out the playmaker’s notoriously accurate shooting from distance. Coutinho has 17 goals from outside the box since the start of the 2012/13 season, more than any other player in that time.
However, he will come up against a goalkeeper in inspired form of late. Lloris made a stunning save last week against Bournemouth and was hailed for another brilliant display at the Bernabeu on Tuesday. If Lloris continues in the same manner, Liverpool will have trouble getting past the France international.
Moussa Sissoko v Alberto Moreno
After a torrid first season at Spurs, Sissoko has found himself back in Pochettino’s good books. After some encouraging displays recently, the Frenchman impressed once again against Real Madrid and his newfound consistency may be rewarded with a start in a huge clash against the Reds. Following injuries to Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama, the former Newcastle favourite has admirably stepped up to the plate with energetic and combative displays in central midfield.
The 28-year-old will line up centrally once again but, with Sissoko having plenty of experience playing on the right for Newcastle and France, Pochettino may want to isolate Moreno by instructing Sissoko to drag the full-back out of position. Thay may allow space for Kieran Trippier or Serge Aurier – whichever Pochettino plays at right wing-back – to roam forward.
Moreno, not unlike Sissoko, fell out of favour with his manager last season. However, Klopp looks to have rediscovered his trust in the Spaniard and it’s reflected in his improved performances recently. Nevertheless, with Sissoko’s direct running both on and off the ball, that is an area of the pitch in which Spurs may look to exploit.
Regardless of the specific one-on-one situations across the pitch, the match between Spurs and Liverpool looks set to be a fascinating tactical tussle between two of the league’s best teams and two of the league’s most astute managerial minds.
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