Sunday sees the first big test of Mauricio Pochettino’s new look side, as Spurs welcome Liverpool to White Hart Lane. The equivalent fixture last season saw a humiliating 5-0 thrashing, which marked the end of Andre Villas-Boas’ short tenure.
Last weekend’s league win gave us our first glimpse of the style of football Pochettino aspires to. High pressing, quick counter attacks, one touch passing – at times it looked like the players’ movements had been choreographed. The one big caveat? It was only QPR.
If there was one criticism of Pochettino’s Southampton last season, it was that they were flat track bullies. Fantastic at dispatching the poorer sides, but found out against the big boys. Aggressive pressing and a high line can be very effective but everything comes at a cost. Committing players forward leaves holes, holes that a skilful opponent can exploit.
Will Pochettino adjust his approach against Liverpool?
Liverpool were the surprise package of last season, mounting a title challenge that only faltered at the last. They benefited from a young progressive manager, with a clear idea about how he wanted his team to play. When Daniel Levy appointed Pochettino it was probably with half an eye on the success at Anfield.
Rodgers may have lost his star striker but unlike Tottenham after Bale’s departure, Liverpool have the foundations in place to cope. Initially their summer transfers had been sensible, if a little prosaic. Then along came Mario. It will be interesting to see if the charismatic striker turns out to be a gamble worth taking.
So far Rodgers has played 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 in the league. He may return to a 4-4-2 diamond to accommodate Balotelli.
Liverpool employ a system similar to Pochettino’s. Lots of pressing – they led the league in tackles last year – and quick counter attacks. It was no surprise that Rodgers took advantage of the Southampton fire sale. Lallana, Lambert and Lovren should fit nicely into his team.
The Liverpool manager’s success last year was built on making his team more direct, but this didn’t come at the expense of his principals. They still finished fifth for possession, and fourth for short passes and pass success.
Suarez may have gone but scoring goals was never really Liverpool’s problem. There are still plenty of dangermen in the Liverpool team. Sterling ran Tottenham’s defence ragged last year, Sturridge scored plenty of goals, while Coutinho’s clever passing should help unlock opposition defences.
Much of Liverpool’s play goes through Steven Gerrard, who now acts as a deep lying playmaker. This role has allowed him to make use of his passing abilities despite his declining mobility. Spurs’ pressing should target the former England captain, both to stop Liverpool’s supply and as a potential weak point.
Perhaps surprisingly after last years two heavy defeats, Tottenham are slight favourites at 2.72, Liverpool are just behind at 2.78, with the draw at 3.55
Players rested in Spurs excellent midweek victory over AEL Limassol should be fit to return. Soldado is an injury doubt with a back problem. Walker is likely to be still unavailable with his recurring hip injury.
For Liverpool, Lallana is close to fitness after a prolonged break and could feature. Fullbacks, Glen Johnson and Alberto Moreno face late fitness tests.
I would be tempted to leave the team unchanged after such an impressive victory.
Hopefully, Rose’s pace should match up well against Sterling.
Liverpool’s weakness is their defence, particularly out wide. Hopefully Chadli and Lamela can repeat their form from last week.
Capoue and Bentaleb worked well as a defensive midfield pairing. This game will be a much bigger test but I think they are up to it.
Fazio could replace Kaboul but he probably needs some time to acclimatise after his arrival from Sevilla earlier this week.
Prediction: Spurs 2 Liverpool 1
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I have the impression that Sandro is going to start with Capoue in the midfield based on his substitution yesterday. But i’m definitely not going to complain if Bentaleb gets picked ahead :)
It would be interesting to see how Sandro plays with Capoue. It’s hard to say to what extent he should try to counter Liverpool but that would help shield the defence.
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Very nervous today. Big test!
I like the sound of Sandro’s extra physicality to be honest. I would also like to see Lewis doing his professional pest impression – if shutting down a deep lying playmaker is a tactic then someone like Holtby, who’s natural game is to press, harry and hassle, and who’s natural position is high up the field, then I think that could work nicely.
Bit harsh to drop Chadli after two goals but it’s a squad game and you need to vary your tactics depending on the opposition; in theme with your flat-track-bully point about Southampton last year I think Chadli is a suitable battering ram for deployment against weaker teams but I think someone with a little more agility and craft is needed in there today. But hey what a great choice to have between Holtby Paulinho and Chadli.
I would like to see:
Dier, Kaboul, Vertonghen, Rose
Eriksen Holtby Lamela
We’ve seen the quality of Lamela’s delivery from the inside left, and likewise Eriksen is capable of deliverying a lot of quality from the inside right… with 2 holding midfielders you would hope that the full backs wouldn’t need too much extra protection from the wingers.
Whatever team Pochettino puts out he’ll have our full support.
I’m torn between the obvious benefit of fielding the same team as worked so well last week and making changes because Liverpool are a much tougher proposition.
Well that was a load of old b*llocks. When we lose to a better team, you can’t really complain. When we lose as a result of bad officiating, it’s bad but at least there is a positive to hang on to.
But when we lose because 9 out of 11 players just go into hiding and show no guts whatsoever, that is inexcusable.
I’d say credit to Liverpool but they were far from faultless. We gave it to them on a plate and when they offered gifts in return we were too polite to take them.
Fair enough we didn’t get the breaks, and the penalty came at a bad time. But it shouldn’t have killed us off; you have 45 minutes to get back into it and if the sight of someone going down as easy as Joe Allen did doesn’t make you want to turn up the volume then what are you doing playing professional competitive sport.
There was no leadership from anyone in a white shirt. No-one trying to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and force something. How utterly disappointing.
On a tactical note, those three giants in the middle were the wrong choices against agile, nimble, turn-on-a-sixpence Allen, Henderson & Sterling… would Holtby have made a difference? Probably not but he would definitely have got closer to either of these three more often, and for sure he wouldn’t have given up as easily as the rest of them.
Also I think we were too narrow and it played right into their hands; 3 central midfielders able to screen and lap everything up, too easy.
Even when we brought a winger on he was on the wrong flank and we all know what happened there!
It was very disappointing, Liverpool did to us what we did to QPR!