The Big Match

Football: Similar styles, similar results ahead of Liverpool-Tottenham clash

Tottenham's Christian Eriksen (right) celebrates with team mate Deli Alli after scoring a goal during match between Tottenham Hotspur and AFC Bournemouth, on Oct 14, 2017.
Tottenham's Christian Eriksen (right) celebrates with team mate Deli Alli after scoring a goal during match between Tottenham Hotspur and AFC Bournemouth, on Oct 14, 2017. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Spurs fancied although three of their last four meetings with Liverpool have ended in draws

Making a statement in the Champions League is impressive enough. Having the chance to do so on an annual basis is better still.

Tottenham and Liverpool have had auspicious weeks.

There is a case for arguing that Spurs' 1-1 draw away against Real Madrid was their single most impressive result under Mauricio Pochettino.

It is a fact that Liverpool's 7-0 thrashing of Maribor was both their biggest win under Jurgen Klopp and the joint biggest on the road in the competition's history.

After displays of European excellence, their next test is to replicate such form in England.

If Liverpool do not improve upon a run of one win in five league games, their return to the continental elite will be a one-season affair.

Victory would put Tottenham seven points ahead of their rivals.

Yet if they do not win, the Manchester clubs may disappear into the distance.

If they do, it may clarify their status.

The debate at the moment is if Tottenham are title challengers or if they join Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal in the four-way scramble for the last two Champions League places.

Tomorrow should provide an answer.

If their record at Wembley does not get better, they will not be in the title race.

At least, Klopp may reflect, Liverpool's opponents may be prepared to attack.

This should be more open than Liverpool's stalemate with Manchester United: Klopp vowed that the Reds cannot play the defensive way Jose Mourinho did.

If that was a clash of ideological opposites, this pairs managers with much in common, pressing enthusiasts who like a high-tempo, energetic game plan.

Perhaps their similarities explain why they tend to cancel each other out.

Three of their four league meetings have finished level. The decisive presence in the other, Sadio Mane, is injured.

Klopp, whose reign began with a 0-0 draw against Tottenham, could do with a repeat of the ruthlessness Liverpool showed in Slovenia, rather the same scoreline they had last Saturday at Anfield.

They have had the most shots in the Premier League, but have scored 16 fewer goals than Manchester City.

Much rests on whether Philippe Coutinho can extend his record of scoring in four consecutive away games and if Mohamed Salah can ally eviscerating pace with a clinical touch because Tottenham tend to be tough to break down.

Klopp will play 4-3-3. His system is set in stone.

Pochettino's is not, and that tactical flexibility has the potential to prove a trump card.

The draw at the Bernabeu was particularly impressive because of Spurs' absentees.

That afforded Harry Winks a chance and the precocious midfielder took it.

But then, Spurs were the underdogs. Now they have to assume the mantle of favourites, along with its responsibilities.

A win might shape their season. So could a setback.

TOTTENHAM V LIVERPOOL
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2017, with the headline 'Similar styles, similar results'. Print Edition | Subscribe