Liverpool Head To Spurs In Acid Test Of Title Dreams
Liverpool can fire a warning to their Premier League rivals by avenging last season’s thrashing at Tottenham when they return to Wembley for an acid test of their title credentials.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are being hailed as contenders to win their first English title since 1990 after making a perfect start to the season.
The Reds sit on top of the table thanks to four successive victories.
But the scrappy nature of their wins over Crystal Palace and Leicester — highlighted by Mohamed Salah’s subdued displays and a howler from goalkeeper Alisson — suggest Liverpool are still not the finished article.
Against that backdrop, this weekend’s showdown with Tottenham is the perfect opportunity to make a statement in their first clash with one of the ‘big six’ this season.
Liverpool’s visit had been ear-marked as Tottenham’s first game in their rebuilt White Hart Lane stadium after over a year in exile.
But instead, safety concerns that delayed the opening of the new arena mean Klopp’s side will head back to Tottenham’s temporary Wembley home for the first time since their mauling last term.
Trips to Tottenham have been landmark affairs for Klopp in his three-year reign with the Reds.
Klopp’s first game as Liverpool boss was a 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane in October 2015.
Two years later, the 4-1 defeat at Wembley last October provoked such an angry response from the German that his stunned side never looked back, embarking on a sustained spell of excellence that took them to the Champions League final.
It was a brutal defeat that exposed Liverpool’s habit of flopping on enemy territory – they won only 10 of the 30 points available against their top-six rivals last season, losing at Manchester City, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United.
Crucially, Klopp has overhauled his defence since that chastening afternoon at Wembley, with only one of the back five from the game — Joe Gomez — starting all four matches so far this season.
And Gomez is now playing in the centre of Liverpool’s defence, rather than on the right, with the ice-cool Virgil van Dijk providing a steadying influence alongside him.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, 19, is the youngest member of an improving Liverpool defence that features new Scotland captain Andrew Robertson at left-back.
“I am very happy for them, and for Liverpool as well as a club. They’ve been doing brilliantly,” Van Dijk said.
“You could have picked anyone for our Player of the Month award this month, everyone has been outstanding.”
Tottenham, who harbour title ambitions of their own, are three points behind Liverpool after their three-game winning streak was ended by a surprise 2-1 defeat against Watford.
Surrendering the lead at Vicarage Road was a major blow just days after a 3-0 win at Manchester United that was perceived as a sign of Tottenham’s ability to push champions Manchester City.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side have too often let themselves down when the stakes are highest and they go into the Liverpool clash with question marks in several positions.
Harry Kane has looked to be suffering a World Cup hangover, while Hugo Lloris caused a distraction with his arrest for drink-driving.
“We know Harry Kane very well. It’s not a situation that worries us,” Pochettino said in response to claims Kane is fatigued and should be rested.
Lloris and Dele Alli will miss the Liverpool game due to injuries, while South Korea winger Son Heung-min may not be ready to start after returning to the club this week following the Asian Games.
In the circumstances, Pochettino could do with a dynamic display from Christian Eriksen.
Eriksen made it 15 goals in his last 18 international appearances with a double in Denmark’s Nations League win against Wales on Sunday.
But the 26-year-old has not scored in his last 10 Tottenham matches.
“It’s great to have that form, going into the weekend,” Eriksen said.
“I’ve always had many shots, even in the Premier League, but I just haven’t scored yet.”