Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool: How Reds Will Line Up in Premier League Clash
After a 1-3 loss away to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Monday—a fixture that many Liverpool fans will have considered to be one of their toughest of the Premier League season—the Reds will look to respond with an improved performance at Tottenham Hotspur this Sunday.
Brendan Rodgers’ men were actually on the front foot on Monday night, before a combination of defensive errors—most notably new left-back Alberto Moreno’s hesitance to clear the ball—led to Stevan Jovetic’s opening goal, pinning Liverpool back for most of the second half.
Both Glen Johnson and Moreno suffered injuries in the closing stages of the game, while Martin Skrtel also looked in trouble. According to the Liverpool Echo, all three players will be assessed ahead of the trip to White Hart Lane, with the full-backs looking major doubts for Sunday.
As a result, Brendan Rodgers may need to field a new-look back four, and with Mario Balotelli’s signing, he may revert to a highly effective 4-1-2-1-2 formation—or a 4-4-2 diamond—to take on Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
Here’s how Liverpool might line up on Sunday.
Goalkeeper: Simon Mignolet
Until Brendan Rodgers signs a goalkeeper to seriously challenge for the No. 1 spot at Anfield, Simon Mignolet will remain the undisputed first choice for the Reds. That much is certain.
Right-Back: Javi Manquillo
Critics of Glen Johnson’s performances over the past few months—and his general decline over the past few seasons—may have seen his late injury at City to be a blessing in disguise, as it offers a chance for new signing Javi Manquillo to work his way into the starting XI.
Impressive in his preseason debut against Borussia Dortmund and composed in his first league appearance of the season against Southampton at Anfield, the man on loan from Atletico Madrid will likely have an opportunity to impress and cement a place in Rodgers’ first team on Sunday.
Left-Back: Jose Enrique
With Alberto Moreno unfortunately looking like he will miss Sunday’s trip to White Hart Lane due to an ankle injury, Rodgers will have to dip into his reserves to find a suitable understudy. Regular stand-in Jon Flanagan is yet to be match fit, and Mamadou Sakho may be used in the center in case Martin Skrtel isn’t able to recover in time.
Step up Jose Enrique, who has been out of the Liverpool first team in the league for the best part of a year now. His unspectacular performances during preseason won’t have done him any favors, but Tottenham represent a challenge and perhaps a last-chance saloon to salvage a career as Liverpool’s left-back.
Center Back: Dejan Lovren
Martin Skrtel’s late knock at the Etihad may yet be minor enough for him to retain his starting position, but it could also be a valuable opportunity for Rodgers to field a center back partnership that many a Reds fan has yearned to see: Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho.
Lovren’s first few performances for Liverpool have split opinion on whether or not he is the right fit in the Reds’ back line, but a successful switch to the right side of the two center backs would pave the way for a Lovren-Sakho partnership for the long term. Many will be hoping it works out.
Center Back: Mamadou Sakho
Mamadou Sakho could be forgiven for thinking that Lovren’s big-money arrival would mean the end of his short journey as Liverpool’s starting left-sided center back, but on paper, Lovren-Sakho looks the best defensive pairing at Anfield.
Whether it be at center back alongside Lovren or on the left to fill in for Moreno, Sakho will likely get a starting opportunity on Sunday. He’ll be keen to make a good enough impression to give Rodgers a selection headache when Skrtel returns.
Holding Midfielder: Steven Gerrard
While he has displayed some of his trademark long passes in the first two games of the season, it’s safe to say that Steven Gerrard hasn’t enjoyed the best opening period against two accomplished midfields in Southampton and Manchester City.
But while Gerrard’s season and first-team minutes will need to be managed carefully, at present he still remains an automatic starter for Brendan Rodgers and will be leading his teammates out at White Hart Lane on Sunday. Rodgers will be hoping for a bigger performance.
Central Midfielder: Jordan Henderson
Monday wasn’t the best of nights for Jordan Henderson, as he didn’t turn in one of his now-trademark effective performances in the Liverpool midfield against a City side that turned on the style in the second half.
But as Gerrard’s main partner and Rodgers’ preferred midfield runner, Henderson will reprise his starting role at White Hart Lane, where he scored from an instinctive finish back in December.
Central Midfielder: Joe Allen
Amid two hesitant and inconsistent midfield performances, Joe Allen’s technique, composure and passing shone through, both in his cameo against Southampton and as a starter against City.
As part of a dominant midfield that ran riot at White Hart Lane last season, Allen should and likely will keep his place in the starting XI as Rodgers continues to count on him to provide a calm presence in the middle of the park.
Attacking Midfielder: Raheem Sterling
After a scintillating preseason campaign that saw him dazzle and dance his way through midfields and pick apart defences, Philippe Coutinho has failed to replicate his stunning form in the first two games of the season, ironically possibly due to burnout over preseason.
To give him a breather, Rodgers should go for Raheem Sterling in the No. 10 role in the 4-4-2 diamond formation, a role that Sterling grew into so impressively in the final months of last season and starred in for England during the World Cup.
Striker: Mario Balotelli
Mario Balotelli goes straight into the first team as Rodgers debuts his new-look 4-4-2 diamond in the post-Luis Suarez era, as the Reds look to rediscover the brilliant scoring form that their star strike duo showed last season.
Balotelli’s playing style is a big contrast to Suarez’s and will offer a different dimension up front. His potential game-changing talent will be of big use to Liverpool this season—so long as he manages to keep his focus and composure.
Striker: Daniel Sturridge
While Daniel Sturridge has all the tools to be a league-leading, line-leading lone striker for Liverpool, he seems to deliver his best performances in a striking pair up front, as a strike partner offers him the space to run into and show his lethal finishing.
With Balotelli now on board to take up some of Sturridge’s goalscoring burden and responsibility, Sturridge will relish the prospect of replicating his exploits in front of goal last season and prove that he is ready to step up to fill Suarez’s large shoes.