With Liverpool’s showdown with Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane fast approaching, we select three key match-ups that will take place in north London.
All of the pre-match hype has understandably been about Jurgen Klopp‘s first outing as Liverpool manager, and it will be nice to finally get to the game itself.
Mauricio Pochettino is starting to make Spurs something of a force, as shown by their 4-1 demolition of Man City three weeks ago, and they have only lost once in the Premier League so far this season.
It is sure to be a tough opening fixture for Klopp, and if he could come away from north London with at least a point it would be deemed a success.
There are interesting tussles that will take place all over the pitch on Saturday lunchtime. Here are three that we believe stand out.
Alberto Moreno vs. Erik Lamela
The battle between Alberto Moreno and Erik Lamela will pit two highly rated youngsters against each other, with both beginning to prove their doubters wrong.
Moreno has been in sparkling form of late as a left wing-back, while Lamela finally looks to be coming of age having joined Spurs for £30 million from Roma in 2013.
The Spaniard and the Argentine may not be the most consistent of footballers, but they are both very talented in their own right.
It seems highly that Klopp will utilise Moreno in a more generic left-back role, assuming the Reds’ new boss adopts his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, and the 23-year-old’s defensive qualities will be tested.
Lamela is a tricky right-sided player capable of beating a man and drifting onto his left foot, so Moreno will have to be switched on at all times.
He has suffered several costly lapses in concentration in the past, but it does appear to be an area of his game that is improving all the time.
On the flip side, the former Sevilla man’s attacking thrust will test Lamela’s work rate and hunger to track back; something he has been criticised for in the past.
Who comes out on top may have a big bearing on the final outcome at White Hart Lane.
Highlights: Klopp’s pre-Spurs v Liverpool Press Conference
Philippe Coutinho vs. Dele Alli
That’s not to say the Brazilian has been poor by any means – he has looked Liverpool’s most creative player time and time again – but he has failed to influence a number of matches.
Coutinho is someone who is sure to thrive under Klopp’s management, and being deployed as a No. 10 in the aforementioned 4-2-3-1 is perfect in getting the very best out of him.
The man tasked with stopping the 23-year-old on Saturday afternoon could well be Dele Alli; someone who is thriving after making the move from MK Dons this summer.
The Englishman has become a very effective midfield option for Pochettino, and has been key to Tottenham‘s success.
Alli has provided welcome support with overlapping from runs midfield into attack so far this season, but with Nabil Bentaleb, Ryan Mason and Eric Dier all unavailable for this clash, he is likely to be deployed in a deep-lying role on Saturday.
The Reds’ star man will likely be given license to roam, and Alli keeping a close eye on him will surely be something Pochettino has worked on this week.
Spurs are not blessed with many fit defensive-minded midfielders right now, so the 19-year-old is key to negating not only Coutinho, but several Liverpool attackers.
Daniel Sturridge vs. Belgian Centre-Backs
Daniel Sturridge has looked slick in recent weeks since his return from injury, but will come up against one of the Premier League‘s in-form defensive duos on Saturday in Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen.
The Belgian pair have been ever-presents in the league so far this season, and have been the main reason why Spurs have conceded just seven times in eight matches to date. No team has conceded less.
Vertonghen’s form has suffered a little in recent seasons, but signing his compatriot from Atletico Madrid in the summer looks like a masterstroke from Pochettino.
Despite their undoubted excellence in 2015/16, Sturridge will provide Alderweireld and Vertonghen with one of their sternest tests of the campaign.
The 26-year-old looked electrifying against Aston Villa last month when his two goals inspired Liverpool to victory, and while he was much more subdued against Everton, the threat he poses is undeniable.
Sturridge will be missing his strike partner, Danny Ings, however, with the former Burnley man ruled out for the season with an ACL injury, and will be expected to bear the goalscoring burden for his team-mates at White Hart Lane.
Liverpool are very reliant on goals from their strikers – not many come from other areas of the pitch – but Sturridge will have a hard time conquering two of the league’s most dominant centre-backs right now.