Liverpool vs Spurs: Pochettino faces critical Anfield test
Spurs have a dire record against Liverpool and his players are tired – but can they afford to drop points on Saturday?
Tottenham's trip to Liverpool on Saturday has been described as their most important trip to Anfield in 43 years. The match could have a significant impact on the title race.
With Spurs playing before Leicester they will be desperate to put the Foxes under pressure with a victory. Defeat would hand Leicester the opportunity to open up an eight-point gap at the top of the table with six games to go.
But the stakes are high for Liverpool, too. They cannot afford to drop points in what is becoming an extremely complicated scramble for European places.
"It's hard to think that Tottenham have faced a more crucial game at Anfield in the 43 years since playing there in the first leg of a Uefa Cup semi-final," says BBC commentator Steve Wilson, who goes on to point out that Spurs lost the game in 1973 and have a dire record of six wins in 72 at Anfield.
But the two teams appear to have swapped personalities recently, says The Guardian. "You could argue that Liverpool have nothing to play for other than the need to shake off that embarrassing 'the New Spurs' tag. Meanwhile, the Improved Spurs, the one managed by Mauricio Pochettino, are chasing the title and victory at Anfield would fuel belief that they can achieve it.
"A repeat of October's 0-0 between these sides at White Hart Lane looks unlikely," says the paper.
But how will Spurs approach the game?
Mauricio Pochettino knows that he still has some time to catch Leicester and avoiding defeat will be his priority, says Mark Lawrenson of the BBC. He will not "go all out for a win because that would play into Liverpool's hands", he claims. "With Leicester playing on Sunday, I think they would take a point and see what happens."
Others disagree. "Some people are saying it's a must-not-lose game for Spurs, but I think they need the win with the fixtures they have coming up," says Paul Merson of Sky Sports, who predicts a win for the visitors.
The Spurs boss will also have to manage his resources carefully says Martin Keown in the Daily Mail. He has been "impressed by Tottenham's young England players but it will be a challenge for them coming back to a title race". Playing at Anfield after performing with England will not make the task any easier.
"I suspect Liverpool will fly out of the blocks at a crazy tempo and try to get an early goal, just as they often do and just as West Ham did against Spurs at Upton Park," says Dan Kilpatrick in the Liverpool Echo. "If Spurs can weather that storm and get a foothold in the game, I think they've got a great chance to expose Liverpool's defensive frailties and win the game."
Liverpool will be missing Christian Benteke who was injured on international duty, and there will be late fitness calls on Brazilians Roberto Firmino, who is recovering from a hamstring injury, and Philippe Coutinho, who only returned from international duty in Brazil on Thursday. England striker Daniel Sturridge will lead the line.
Spurs will be hoping Toby Alderweireld will overcome the illness that prevented him for playing for Belgium this week. Erik Lamela faces the same issues as Coutinho having returned from Argentina this week, but Tottenham's England contingent are all ready to go.
Most pundits expect a draw at Anfield, but one or two believe that Spurs will emerge with all three points. However, the bookies have Liverpool as slight favourites.