How Liverpool Will Line Up Against Tottenham Hotspur
Following seven Premier League wins in a row, Liverpool are now seven games away from the end of their season with the unlikeliest of league titles in sight.
The Reds saw off Sunderland 2-1 following a nervy night at Anfield on Wednesday to go back up to second in the table and just a point away from leaders Chelsea, and Brendan Rodgers must now hope that his team have recovered enough for the next test—the visit of Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday afternoon.
Spurs’ Champions League ambitions may have suffered fatal blows in recent weeks with defeats to the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal, but they’ll arrive on Merseyside determined to make up for the 5-0 hammering they were on the end of when the teams last met in December.
That result proved to be the death knell for Andre Villas-Boas, with Tim Sherwood the man in charge of the north Londoners as they come to Anfield.
But which Liverpool players will he come up against? Will Rodgers leave his team unchanged for the third successive game?
Here is the XI the Reds manager could pick:
Goalkeeper: Simon Mignolet
The look of relief on the Belgian’s face when the full-time whistle blew against his former club at Anfield on Wednesday spoke volumes. He knew that this was a massive three points.
Mignolet’s goal came under threat in the closing stages of that 2-1 victory and although he wasn’t really required to make outstanding saves he, like all of the team, will have taken confidence from emerging from such a battle with their recent winning record intact.
As ever, the goalkeeper will know that if he can keep a clean sheet against Spurs then there is every chance that his team will earn the three points given their attacking prowess and with the calibre of attackers on offer to the visitors he’s likely to have to be on good form to ensure that clean sheet happens.
Defence: Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger, Jon Flanagan
There were some calls for the fit-again Mamadou Sakho to return to the starting line-up against Sunderland in an attempt to deal with the physical threats of Jozy Altidore and Connor Wickham but ultimately Daniel Agger kept his place in the team.
In the frantic closing stages as Liverpool sought to protect their 2-1 lead, Altidore was often seen dominating Agger in the air, but the Dane might not have that sort of threat to deal with on Sunday.
Agger could probably deal with the Spaniard’s threat a little easier alongside Martin Skrtel, with full-backs Glen Johnson and Jon Flanagan keeping their places on the right and left flanks respectively.
Flanagan will hold fond memories of facing Spurs after scoring his first career goal in the 5-0 win in December. What price for his second coming here?
Midfield: Steven Gerrard, Joe Allen, Jordan Henderson
Despite facing the threat of a booking and a two-match suspension Steven Gerrard didn’t let anything faze him in the Sunderland game, scoring the crucial opening goal at a time when nerves were beginning to envelop Anfield.
That suspension still hangs over him here and will do for the next two matches after Sunday, but he’ll play in the centre of midfield and look to dictate the play in the manner that he has been doing ever since dropping into his deeper position in mid-January.
Joe Allen has been neat and tidy and looked at home in the team ever since Rodgers gave him a chance to re-establish himself following injury, while Jordan Henderson was superb in the win over Spurs earlier this season, and he will yet again start in a team he has become a vital part of.
Forwards: Raheem Sterling, Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge
Brendan Rodgers has lightened Raheem Sterling’s workload in recent weeks as he has altered the formation to a midfield diamond but with a 4-3-3 seemingly the best way to take on a Spurs side who have been short on numbers defensively in recent weeks, the England man could return here.
This is becoming a theme, but Sterling was excellent at White Hart Lane in December, sprinting at full-back Kyle Naughton and setting the tone for Liverpool’s display with some excellent early runs, before he put the gloss on the win with the fifth goal.
He deserves a return to the starting line-up here, with his pace and boundless energy vitally important as he seeks to link up with two of the first names on the teamsheet in Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.
It was the latter’s turn to hit the net in the Sunderland win, but after scoring three goals in his last two games against Spurs, the baton could be passed on to the Uruguayan here.
Ready in Reserve
And so if this is to be the Liverpool line-up and formation, the unlucky man to miss out would be Philippe Coutinho.
The Brazilian played well against Sunderland, but the re-selection of Sterling would give the Reds more pace in their 4-3-3, with Coutinho then missing out to Allen’s extra defensive responsibility in midfield.
The No. 10 could be dropped to the bench, where he’d sit alongside the likes of Lucas Leiva, Mamadou Sakho, Iago Aspas and Victor Moses.
How They’ll Line Up
So that selection would see Liverpool return to their 4-3-3 formation, the same setup which they displayed in the emphatic home victories over the likes of Everton and Arsenal this year.
The front three can all interchange positions, with Suarez and Sturridge most notably able to swap roles as the man at the head of the forward line, something they have been doing to devastating effect as they’ve plundered 51 goals in all competitions between them this season, with 48 of those coming in the Premier League.
If they can click into gear again, then Liverpool’s seven wins in a row could soon become eight.