Expecting the unexpected is what the Premier League is all about. This can be best exemplified by a few notable results two weeks into the 2016-17 season, the standout scorelines being Liverpool’s extraordinary 4-3 win at the Emirates stadium against Arsenal and their shock 2-0 reverse at Burnley six days later. Inconsistency has marred Jürgen Klopp’s team in the past too and it is evident they will need to address certain issues immediately if they are to challenge for the title this year.
The Reds are on the road again this weekend and will be visiting North London for the second time this month as they take on Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. Liverpool’s recent run of form against their counterparts has been majestic, with four wins and two draws comprising the last six league meetings between the two sides.
If previous encounters at the Lane are anything to go by, Liverpool usually find their bearings in defence and score a glut of goals, the latter being an exception in their goalless draw at this venue last season.
Nevertheless, their dominance of this fixture in recent years may yet reinvigorate a sense of optimism going into Saturday’s clash.
Tottenham have had a decent start to the season with four points from two games. They felt they deserved more from their 1-1 stalemate against Everton at Goodison Park and laboured to a 1-0 win against Crystal Palace at home last weekend. The likes of Deli Alli, Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen have looked off the pace thus far but Erik Lamela and new signing Vincent Janssen have been energetic and tough to battle. Tottenham’s second acquisition this summer, Victor Wanyama scored the winner for his side last week and may yet prove decisive in this game, given his ability to break up play in midfield. The hosts’ biggest miss for the weekend shall be Hugo Lloris, the Frenchman having picked up a hamstring injury on the opening day of the season. With Mauricio Pochettino admitting his men are not yet up to speed with the demands of the Premier League, it remains to be seen whether Tottenham’s explosive talents will be as lethal as they are expected to be.
As far as Liverpool are concerned, one player who is expected to cause problems for the North Londoners is Sadio Mane. A £36 million recruit from Southampton this summer, Mane has hit the ground running at his new club, his blistering solo goal at the Emirates showing the Liverpool faithful exactly what he is capable of. He missed the defeat at Burnley with a shoulder problem but returned to action with a fine performance against Burton Albion in the EFL Cup on Tuesday. The Senegalese forward appears to have acclimatized to Klopp’s system and philosophy instantly and is likely to be a thorn in Tottenham’s defence this Saturday.
While Kyle Walker and Danny Rose have earned plaudits for the performances recently, they must be wary of the 24-year-old’s qualities. Not only does Mane possess the required pace to outrun a fullback, he also has the strength to brush them off his shoulder. If Klopp persists with the same front three he set up at Arsenal two weekends ago, Tottenham’s backline will have to be on it’s toes for the entire game.
With Coutinho and Firmino expected to create pockets of space for the likes of Lallana and Wijnaldum (Should the two of them feature for Liverpool) to ghost through, Mane will attempt to run behind Tottenham’s centre-half pairing of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen and that in turn may prove difficult to handle, even for a bunch of such refined defenders.
It is hard to imagine Klopp picking Sturridge for this outing, considering he was unable to influence proceedings at Burnley. Mane is likely to be stationed on the right-hand side of an attacking trio and with all his attributes taken into consideration, Tottenham will have to be at their very best to tackle him.