Liverpool vs. Tottenham Hotspur Preview: 6 Key Battles to Watch at Anfield
Liverpool welcome Tottenham Hotspur to Anfield this Sunday as the Reds look to keep up their unlikely challenge for the Premier League title and Spurs strive to revive their hopes of a top-four finish.
After a 2-1 win over Sunderland on Wednesday, Liverpool head into this fixture on the back of a seven-game win streak. Brendan Rodgers’ side ran out emphatic 5-0 winners in the reverse fixture at White Hart Lane back in December.
Tottenham, on the other hand, exited the Europa League despite their valiant attempts last week, but Tim Sherwood’s side bounced back with a morale-boosting 3-2 comeback win over Southampton at home last Sunday.
As we look ahead to a clash that may have major ramifications for both the title and top-four races, let’s look at six key battles to take place on the Anfield pitch that will likely have a major say in where the points go.
Martin Skrtel vs. Roberto Soldado
With top scorer Emmanuel Adebayor looking increasingly unlikely to make it back to the team in time for Sunday, according to the Standard, Tottenham will likely start Roberto Soldado up front at Anfield.
His opposite number, Martin Skrtel, has been an equal match in terms of productivity in front of goal—both Soldado and Skrtel have scored six Premier League goals this season, with the latter netting a double in last Saturday’s 6-3 win over Cardiff City.
Prior to his most recent goal at the beginning of March, Soldado’s previous goal was way back in December. But if he reprises his connection and partnership with Christian Eriksen from last Sunday, Skrtel will have a busy night ahead of him.
Jon Flanagan vs. Aaron Lennon
Before we get to Christian Eriksen, there is the small matter of Aaron Lennon, who will provide electrifying pace on the right flank against the recently hesitant Jon Flanagan.
Flanagan, who Brendan Rodgers has confirmed will be rewarded with a new contract in the summer (per the Guardian), had been in encouraging form for the previous few months—scoring his first-ever Liverpool goal in the reverse fixture in December. His error against Sunderland on Wednesday was, however, indicative of the nervousness that has crept into his game of late.
Against a pacy Lennon and with so much at stake, Flanagan will be eager to recapture his best form. Lennon, meanwhile, will be looking to convince Roy Hodgson that he’s worthy of a place in the England World Cup squad.
Steven Gerrard vs. Christian Eriksen
There was a time—toward the end of last season—when Christian Eriksen was earmarked by many Liverpool fans as the heir to Steven Gerrard at Anfield. But Eriksen will be running out at Anfield wearing Tottenham’s colors, and the Dane has scored five goals and notched four assists in 18 league matches this season.
Gerrard has more than double Eriksen’s haul in both categories (11 goals and nine assists in 27 matches), but the battle between an evergreen midfield general and an effervescent playmaker will be fascinating to watch.
What makes this encounter more interesting is the fact that Gerrard can’t afford to pick up a yellow card with the possibility of a two-match suspension in a period of important fixtures for the title-chasing Reds. Eriksen will look to take full advantage of that.
Raheem Sterling vs. Danny Rose
Raheem Sterling and Danny Rose used to be two of England’s brightest prospects. But come this summer, barring injuries, Sterling will likely be on the plane to Brazil, while Rose has thoroughly disappointed expectations with his displays at left-back this season.
While Sterling has added an end product and overall tactical intelligence to his game, Rose still struggles with his decision-making and final ball, making him an ideal target for Sterling to exploit on the Liverpool right.
When on form, Sterling is the final component of the exciting SSS forward trio at Anfield—and he’s terrorized many a Premier League full-back this season, including a certain Kyle Naughton back in December.
Luis Suarez vs. Kyle Naughton
Arguably Tottenham’s weakest links in their current first-team setup are their full-backs, and opposite Danny Rose, Kyle Naughton has been a picture of calamity and confusion at right-back.
Though he provided the assist for Christian Eriksen to kickstart Tottenham’s impressive comeback against Southampton last Sunday, both of Southampton’s goals came from Naughton’s costly mistakes.
If Brendan Rodgers opts to revert back to a 4-3-3 this weekend, it will likely be Luis Suarez up against Naughton. After a hat-trick against Cardiff, he failed to get on the scoresheet on Wednesday and will be raring to go on Sunday.
Suarez, of course, hit a brace at White Hart Lane in December.
Daniel Sturridge vs. Jan Vertonghen
Besides the Gerrard-Eriksen match-up, another intriguing encounter will take place between Daniel Sturridge, who’s in red-hot goal-scoring form, and Jan Vertonghen, who has failed to hit his heights from last season.
Fresh from hitting the 20-goal mark on Wednesday, Sturridge will look to race clear of Yaya Toure in the Premier League scoring charts; Vertonghen, known as one of the classiest defenders in the English top flight, will need to be on top form.
This is the same Vertonghen, of course, who was been linked with a shock move to Anfield just earlier this month, according to the Daily Mail (via the Metro). This clash could have personal ramifications for the Belgian defender as well.