On Wednesday, Tottenham travel to Anfield to take on Liverpool in the most pivotal game of the season thus far.
The two sides sit tied atop the league table, with 25 points. Despite the two teams being tied on points, each has faced different fortunes thus far this season.
Tottenham couldn’t have asked for a much better start to the season. Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min have blazed opposing defences, while Eric Dier and Pierre Emile-Hojberg have formed the spine of a side that has conceded the fewest amount of goals in the Premier League.
On the other hand, Liverpool have been devastated by injuries in defence, losing Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez to long term injuries. The Reds will also be without Thiago, Diogo Jota, Naby Keita, James Milner, Xherdan Shaqiri, and possibly Joel Matip.
Nonetheless, Liverpool still find themselves in an enviable position with the opportunity to claim sole grasp of first place.
Ahead of the highly anticipated matchup, we evaluate the biggest storylines to follow:
Can the two sides rebound following disappointing results?
On Sunday, each of the two sides dropped points in 1-1 draws.
Tottenham lost the opportunity to build on recent successes due to an 80th minute equalizer from Crystal Palace. A heroic effort from Palace keeper Vicente Guaita prevented Tottenham from securing the 3 points.
Liverpool, conversely, performed extremely poorly against Fulham, needing a late Mohamed Salah penalty to escape with a point. Jurgen Klopp’s side turned in a drab performance and was outplayed for large portions of the game.
Both sides will be looking to rebound from this past weekend’s results. One of the tell-tale signs of a champion is the ability to prevent bad games from turning into bad runs.
Especially considering the hectic holiday period ahead, neither side will want to drop points in consecutive games.
How will Jurgen Klopp line up the defence?
Liverpool’s defensive frailties and Tottenham’s attacking prowess have been the major storylines in the league this season.
Harry Kane has already bagged 10 assists this season and can add to this tally against an inexperienced backline.
Fabinho, a midfielder by trade, will start but who will partner him is a more difficult question to answer.
Joel Matip left at halftime of Sunday’s game due to back spasms, leaving Liverpool with no fit senior centre-backs. If Matip can’t suit up, expect academy products Nat Phillips or Rhys Williams to get the start.
Either way, Jose Mourinho will relish the opportunity to exploit Liverpool’s makeshift backline.
Will Tottenham continue to play on the counter?
Jose Mourinho has become renowned for his “park the bus” tactics.
His plan worked to perfection in the North London Derby against Arsenal. Son and Kane each scored on counter-attacks in the first half, allowing them to sit back and defend in the second half.
Without creative outlets such as Thiago and Jota who can find gaps in the defence, Mourinho will likely continue this plan.
Liverpool will likely rely on fullbacks Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson to stretch Tottenham’s backline. A storyline to watch will be whether or not this pins back the likes of Son and Steven Bergwijn, potentially isolating Kane up top.
Even more interestingly, if Liverpool score early, how will Mourinho adjust his tactics? The former Chelsea manager has faced criticism for being unable to adjust based on game situations.
Can Sadio Mane or Roberto Firmino break out of their scoring slumps?
While Mohamed Salah has already notched 10 goals in 11 appearances, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are suffering relatively dry spells in the scoring department.
The pair have scored just 2 goals in Liverpool’s last 7 Premier League games (Salah has scored 6 in that time frame).
Mane has not scored in his past 7 Premier League outings. Liverpool fans shouldn’t worry about the former Southampton man’s scoring record but would love to see him break out of this trend in the biggest game of the season.
Firmino’s scoring struggles have been much more widely documented. The Brazilian’s finishing touch has seemingly lost him in 2020, but Klopp is quick to point out how the #9 contributes elsewhere. To his credit, Firmino’s all-around contributions have been crucial for Liverpool in the past week or so.
A goal from either of these two would be the timely spark that Liverpool have missed this season.
How much will this game impact the two sides the rest of the season?
The importance of this game cannot be understated, but ultimately, these 3 points are no more or less than any other.
It’s not hard to envision Liverpool winning at Anfield, propelling them to another run at the league title as they get healthier. However, a bad result or another injury could dig the Reds into a hole too deep to climb out of.
Either way, Jurgen Klopp’s side have championed the “Mentality Monsters” moniker, making it likely that Liverpool will not allow the result to hang over their heads.
This game seems to be a defining moment for Tottenham, however. A draw against Crystal Palace followed by a defeat to Liverpool would lead to 5 dropped points in 4 days. The schedule does not let up for Mourinho’s side, with matches against Leicester City and Wolves upcoming.
Tottenham will need to ensure that the sentiments from this match don’t carry over into the holiday period if they want to continue their title push.