Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool: Tactical Preview

It’s been coming, and last week it finally happened. Jürgen Klopp has been named the new manager of Liverpool and his first match in charge will be at White Hart Lane. Liverpool has won five of the last six Premier League meetings between the sides, but Spurs came away with a 2-1 victory last time the pair met. This match will be intriguing on multiple levels, and should be well worth the two week wait. 

Questions abound when a new manager is appointed, and it’s difficult to say what Klopp will do with the side he’s been handed. In Brendan Rodgers’ final matches as LFC manager, the Reds lined up in a 3-4-1-2. Whether Klopp will continue with this system or revert to a back four remains unclear, but in selecting his defense, he will have to deal with the definite absence of Joe Gomez and possible absence of Dejan Lovren. 

The Reds’ back line started the season with three clean sheets, including a notable 0-0 draw at the Emirates. But since that solid defensive start, Mignolet and company have conceded in every match across all competitions. Assuming that Klopp sticks with the back three (which, again, is no guarantee), we will likely see a center back contingent featuring three of Martin Skrtel, Emre Can, Mamadou Sakho, and Dejan Lovren. Skrtel has been one of the top center backs in the Premier League over the past several seasons and provides a significant aerial threat off set pieces. 

The wingbacks are Alberto Moreno on the left and Nathaniel Clyne on the right. They’ll receive help in the defense from their center back counterparts, but the combinations of Lamela/Walker and Chadli/Davies should look to create chances by taking on the wingbacks with overlapping support. Moreno is a very significant offensive threat, leading Liverpool in chances created per 90 minutes (4.1) this season. 

Holding midfielder, Lucas Levia, will form a crucial part of the Reds’ defensive unit. The Brazilian leads the Premier League in tackles per game (5.7) and will look to clean up central attacks before they reach the back line. Lucas’ defensive tendencies will allow his midfield counterpart, James Milner, to play further up the pitch. Milner has thus far been relatively productive in the attack, contributing a goal and two assists in the Premier League. 

Injuries (not to mention the new manager) leave plenty of questions about Liverpool’s attacking set up come Saturday. Benteke, Ings, and Firmino are unavailable while Coutinho remains probable, but no guarantee. Should Klopp stick with a #10 and two forwards, we will likely see Coutinho playing underneath Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi. Adam Lallana and Jordon Ibe could also feature. 

Poch has his fair share of injury problems as well. Son Heung-min, Ryan Mason, Nabil Bentaleb, and Alex Pritchard are injured. Further, Eric Dier is suspended for yellow card accumulation. The central midfield should, therefore, feature Dembélé and Alli. Lamela and Chadli will likely start on the wings, with Eriksen in the #10 and Kane up top.

The Spurs Projected Goal Difference is -.02, essentially zero, indicating that a draw is likely. And as usual, this match will have important table implications given the two sides’ propensity to finish near each other – right now, they are separated by only one place in the table.