Saturday February 11th 17.30
Anyone who hasn’t been living in a cave on Mars with their fingers in their ears for the last month will have noted that, in addition to Donald Trump’s efforts to destroy the Office of President through increasingly hapless edicts and notions, Liverpool have been having a rough time of it this year. One win in ten games across all competitions isn’t what the fans were expecting nor, probably, what the team were expecting either. In the age of megaphone populism and knee-jerk reactions, such a state of play is tantamount to the apocalypse in the minds of some.
Liverpool as St Francis of Assisi
Reality, such as it is, tends to look on these things with a colder eye. It is absolutely true that Liverpool have lost their way of late and, as a result, now find themselves 13 points behind Chelsea with all hopes of title-winning season shelved for another year. Although their record against the other teams in the top six is second to none, their traditional generosity with regard to teams lower down the food chain has been their undoing yet again. Losing 2-0 to Hull City is not something any team with notions of grandeur should be concerning themselves with.
Achilles and his dicky heel
However, somewhat counter-intuitively, the fact that these losses and limp draws have come against teams in the bottom half offers Liverpool some hope. Every team knows how Liverpool set up to play – attack, press and harry at speed with little recourse to anything else. When that approach is successful, there is little most teams can do about it so the best tactic for weaker teams to take is to sit deep and take advantage of the handful of chances that will inevitably come their way. Liverpool’s defence is such that these chances are often gold with a quick and competent attack.
Opportunity in the face of danger
Spurs are, however, not one of the weaker teams and will be coming in expectation of a win rather than hope of one. In order to effect this outcome, they will come to play. Given their form of late, that is a dangerous proposition for Liverpool and yet, by doing so, they will be leaving space for Liverpool to attack, space that Liverpool have not enjoyed of late. This isn’t to say that Spurs aren’t tight defensively (16 goals against is the best in the league) but that they won’t be defending in deep banks of four or five. In fact, Tottenham members and supporters will bring in quite a bit of optimism into this fixture. It should be a good fixture for the neutral if all players live up to their potential.
Re-jigged back line
Another point in Liverpool’s favour is the loss through injury of Jan Vertonghen and Danny Rose from Spurs’ back line. This will mean one of two things for the visitors; either they drop Eric Dier into Vertonghen’s place and Ben Davies into Rose’s and play a flat back four or they go for a back three which will also require Dier but also the calamitous Kevin Wimmer. Should they decide to go for the latter option, it’s advantage Liverpool.
Can they defend, with or without you?
At the time of writing, there appears to be an element of doubt as to the availability of Dejan Lovren in Liverpool’s defence but critics might argue that his presence there is a constant element of doubt anyway. Every man and his dog knows that Liverpool are dodgy at the back (30 goals conceded) and with Harry Kane in a rich vein of form, that has to be a concern for fans, Lovren or not.
There can be little doubt that Spurs have been in largely excellent form of late having dropped just seven points from their last 10 games and are the only team to have beaten Chelsea in the league since September. Having said that, the market generally has them at prices longer than 2/1 to get the win at Anfield. Liverpool are favourites with prices of slightly better than evens with most. For what it’s worth, this column is expecting goals from both sides but thinks that a draw might be the likeliest outcome. If that sounds like a reasonable shout to you, the price of 49/20 from BetStars is the best around in that regard.