Liverpool are in desperate need of a victory to bring their poor run of form in 2017 to an end when they welcome Tottenham Hotspur to Anfield this weekend (5.30pm Saturday on BT Sport 1).
Jurgen Klopp’s side slumped to a surprise 2-0 defeat by Hull City when they last took to the field, which extended their run without a Premier League victory to five matches. The Reds have fallen from title contenders to fifth spot in the standings, with a place in next season’s Champions League now in jeopardy. They were the team who looked best placed to challenge Chelsea for the championship crown after a 1-0 victory over Manchester City on New Year’s Eve.
Liverpool have lost some of the zip and mojo that characterised their attacking play earlier in the campaign, while they remain vulnerable in defensive situations, both individually and collectively. The return of Sadio Mane, who missed multiple matches while representing Senegal at last month’s Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon, may improve matters going forward. But it is hard to resist the feeling that Liverpool remain too unbalanced compared to some of their rivals towards the top of the Premier League.
Tottenham’s 1-0 win against Middlesbrough last time out moved them up to second in the table, although the nine points that separate them from London rivals and league leaders Chelsea will probably be too much to make up between now and the end of the season in May. Mauricio Pochettino’s men nevertheless head into this crunch clash in fine form, having now gone undefeated in 11 encounters in all competitions. Their last loss in the top flight came against Manchester United in December, but since then Spurs have won seven games, scored 22 goals and conceded only five. Such solidity at the back in recent outings has contributed to their terrific defensive record overall. No side in the division have conceded fewer goals than Tottenham, whose backline has been breached on just 16 occasions all season.
Central defenders Dejan Lovren (knee) and Ragnar Klavan (illness) should both be fit enough to start for Liverpool on Saturday, but Marko Grujic (hamstring) and Danny Ings (knee) remain sidelined. Mane, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho will be tasked with causing problems in the final third, while Jordan Henderson could be a particularly important figure at the base of the hosts’ midfield, both with and without the ball. Simon Mignolet has not always looked particularly assured since his recall a couple of months ago, but the Belgian should still get the nod ahead of Loris Karius.
Tottenham will once again be without Jan Vertonghen (ankle), Danny Rose (knee), Kieran Trippier (hip), Georges-Kevin N’koudou (knee) and Erik Lamela (hip) for their trip to the northwest. Son Heung-min performed brilliantly in the triumph over Middlesbrough and should keep his place in the starting line-up, which means Pochettino will stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation he employed last weekend. Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama are powerful players in the centre of the park and will be pivotal if Spurs are to come away with all three points.
This preview believes that it could be worth backing a Liverpool victory at Anfield this weekend. Although the Reds are in poor form, they possess an excellent record against their fellow top-six sides. Klopp’s men have still not tasted defeat against Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham or Arsenal this season. They will surely get back on track at some point soon. Spurs, while difficult to play against, will not relish this trip to Anfield, and a home win for Liverpool (best odds of 5/4 with Bet365) may therefore be the way to go. In the anytime goalscorer market, Firmino, who is likely to play in a central role, appeals at 15/8 with Paddy Power.