Three things Tottenham Hotspur need to do to deny Liverpool
Jose Mourinho will attempt to thwart yet another Liverpool title charge when Tottenham play Liverpool in the Premier League this Saturday.
Jurgen Klopp’s table-toppers are currently 13 points clear at the top with a game in hand. In Mourinho, they face the ultimate party pooper who relishes on other team’s misfortunes.
The Portuguese famously denied Liverpool an unlikely title in the 2013-14 season, much to the disbelief of the Anfield crowd. This match, however, will not be quite as dramatic, given Liverpool’s gap at the top. But the chance to put one over a long-time rival should be motivation to Jose.
The last two weeks have been horrendous for Spurs. Losses have been overshadowed by injuries to key players as the club fall behind in the race for fourth place. A horrible matchup on paper, Liverpool should present Spurs with the ideal opportunity to put in a performance to kick on from.
Liverpool have dropped just 2 points all season. A Spurs victory here will not necessarily derail their title charge. It can, however, lay the foundation for a resurgent Tottenham assault on the top-four. If that happens, you can bet on Mourinho making a meal of being the first manager to beat the Reds this season, that too with a depleted squad.
The match may not amount to much when it comes to the title race but it can make all the difference to Spurs in the race for Champions League qualification. We take a look at three things Tottenham need to do to derail Liverpool.
Shackle Jordan Henderson
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has been imperious of late. The 29-year-old, who was once surplus at Anfield, is now indispensable for the Reds. Henderson has been in excellent form of late and has bossed the midfield, dictating the play. If Liverpool’s attack is an orchestra, then Henderson is the maestro.
Henderson’s ability to run the game from the midfield was apparent in the romp against Leicester and the win against Sheffield United. He won control of the midfield early on and did not relinquish it thereafter. The opposition were always forced to play catchup as the Reds then piled on the pressure.
This cannot happen on today. Henderson should be man-marked and closed down, giving him less time on the ball. With Fabinho and Naby Keita out injured, closing down Henderson can help nullify Liverpool starting attacks from the midfield.
Spurs should focus on giving Henderson less time on the ball. The Englishman usually drops deep and collects the ball from his defenders with his back facing the opposition goal.
Tottenham must make use of such opportunities to nick the ball off the Reds skipper and counter at pace with Son Heung-Min and Lucas Moura. Henderson is Liverpool’s engine and shutting him down can stall the Reds juggernaut.
Be unpredictable in defence
One of Tottenham’s major problems under Mourinho has been the inability to be unpredictable. When available, the starting line-up hasn’t changed and neither has the formation and tactics. With Liverpool sure to have done their homework, Spurs will have to catch them off guard.
Liverpool’s playmaking abilities come to the fore when their fullbacks come alive. Jan Vertonghen’s lack of pace could make him a liability at left-back, while Sessegnon isn’t trusted by Mourinho. This coupled with Andy Robertson’s ability to get under the skin of the players, Aurier could be walking a tightrope if he gets flustered.
Instead, Mourinho can go with 5 at the back. A defensive core of Davinson Sanchez, Toby Alderwiereld and Jan Vertonghen flanked by Aurier and Sessegnon.
This can reduce the defensive responsibilities on both Aurier and Sessegnon, letting them make use of their attacking tendencies and pace to hit Liverpool on the counter. This can also limit the Liverpool full-backs from pushing forward and contributing to the attack.
With three centre-backs narrowing the pitch down, Firmino will also be hard-pressed to find spaces to move into. This limits his influence on the game. Given the player’s record against us, nullifying Firmino’s influence will help negate Liverpool’s ability to find pockets of space to run into.
Use their own strengths against them
Liverpool usually attack at pace and one of the reasons they can swarm the opposition defence with ease is their ability to win the ball high upfield and then play the attackers through with a ball over the defence.
This was displayed in the UEFA Champions League final when Mane was put through in the first minute with an overhead ball that took out the Spurs defence.
Spurs have a good chance of winning the ball back by targetting Henderson in the midfield. We should aim to win the ball off him higher upfield and then counter at pace with Moura and Son running into channels.
This can also give the Tottenham midfield to get runners up the pitch. Aurier and Sessegnon can also push up the flanks in an attempt to swarm the Liverpool defence.
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The Reds defence is extremely well organized and it will take a clever unit of players working in unison to jettison them.
In Moura and Son, we have a couple of intelligent players who are capable of just that. If they work in unison with Dele Alli and Ndombele in the midfield, Spurs have a good shot at hitting Liverpool where they least expect it.