Eye on EPL

Football: Outcome to define Tottenham's season

Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane applauding fans after a match against Bournemouth on March 20, which his team won 3-0.
Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane applauding fans after a match against Bournemouth on March 20, which his team won 3-0.PHOTO: AFP

Rare chance for title aspirants to score over Reds and apply pressure on leaders Leicester

The last time Liverpool and Tottenham met, the focus was on Juergen Klopp. It was his first match in charge. Spurs were relegated to a subplot in a stalemate.

They have spent much of the season going under the radar, partly because of more dramatic developments elsewhere.

Even in a title race of surprise stories, their prowess has been the lesser shock. The limelight has lingered on Leicester City.

Today, however, eyes will be directed firmly at Tottenham. Win at Anfield and they will be just two points behind Leicester. Lose and they could be eight adrift tomorrow. It would not end their chances, but it would be a sizeable blow.

This is a rare chance to apply pressure to Claudio Ranieri's team. In each of the next three weekends, Leicester play before Tottenham. The fixture list favours the leaders.

Spurs have spent a season confounding their past, playing with greater resilience, teamwork and physical fitness than before. Timid travellers have become away-day specialists.

They will have to show that again. They have one win in 17 trips to Anfield. They meet a team with similar characteristics, given Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino's shared interest in high-energy, pressing games.

The difference is that Tottenham are further along in their journey. They have scored vital late goals, Liverpool have suffered crucial late concessions.

There are further reasons to tip Tottenham. Liverpool face Klopp's old club Dortmund on Thursday, so the German is still juggling priorities.

Spurs are out of the Europa League, so Pochettino can finally concentrate on fielding his strongest side. He could have Jan Vertonghen back after a two-month absence to partner Toby Alderweireld at the heart of the division's most frugal defence.

Liverpool have shown signs of improvement and are getting to understand Klopp's brand of football, but the 3-2 defeat by Southampton, when they had been 2-0 up, suggests they still have an erratic side.

Over the course of the season, the difference between the teams may be summed up by the sight of Harry Kane.

Liverpool have Daniel Sturridge, a potent finisher when fit, and the in-form Roberto Firmino, who has seven goals in eight league games.

Yet, no one has mustered more than eight, whereas Kane is the division's 21-goal top scorer.

He has given Spurs impetus, and now they should take it from international exploits. Kane, Dele Alli and Eric Dier played huge parts in England's 3-2 win over world champions Germany.

Their surge is about momentum. The reality is that these teams could play the same system - 4-2-3-1 - and adopt a common approach.

Then it is a question of who executes a game plan better. Over the last eight months, Tottenham have done but Liverpool's dynamism makes them dangerous opponents.

A setback or a success now could have colossal consequences.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 02, 2016, with the headline 'OUTCOME TO DEFINE TOTTENHAM'S SEASON'. Print Edition | Subscribe