The Game Of The Weekend

Wembley_Stadium_interior
An artist’s impression of the general public’s knowledge of what the Nations League is.

Tottenham vs Liverpool

 12.30pm Saturday 15/09/2018

Shown on the TV channels you all know about and the streaming ones you don’t.

Tottenham host Liverpool at Wembley this Saturday lunchtime in one of the earlier ‘big’ games of the season for those aiming to snatch the premiership trophy from Pep Guardiola’s grasp. And despite it only being the fifth game of a long season both sides (and particularly their managers) will be keen to send out a message to the plethora of rivals that surround them in the northern regions of the premier league table.

For the home side, a completely inactive summer in the transfer window while many of their stars shined in England’s World Cup adventure indicated that Tottenham may once again start the season sluggishly. However, three wins in three to start the campaign, the third an already historic away win at Old Trafford gave boss Mauricio Pochettino the springboard he needed to ward off any early critique of his unimproved and possibly fatigued squad.

Six days later though his team, having surrendered three points to a buoyant Watford side, trudged off the pitch at Vicarage Road with a palpable sense of frustration. Midweek talk of a ‘watershed moment’ following their victory versus Man United was swiftly quashed by Craig Cathcart’s late winner. So, despite the stern nature of Saturday’s fixture, this type of game gives Tottenham a timely opportunity to put out a statement of intent to both their top six rivals and fan base who are still waiting to move into their new stadium.

Meanwhile, visiting Liverpool, despite being tested in the second half versus Leicester last time out, travel to northwest London looking to extend a perfect start to the season. In terms of transfer business over the summer months theirs was essentially the polar opposite of Spurs’. A handful of excellent additions has given Jurgen Klopp real depth in the middle of the park and much more importantly the quality goalkeeper that the club has been screaming out for in recent years. Allison (except when he’s doing a dodgy Johan Cruyff impression) is now an integral part of an apparent new defensive steeliness that hints that Liverpool could push Manchester City all the way this year. Though a trip to Wembley will give their still fresh back line a true acid test.

Indeed, it is how well Liverpool can deal with the usual Spurs suspects in attack as well as the in-form Lucas Moura that may define Saturday’s result. Meanwhile, Spurs usually stubborn back line will have to sure itself up once more to keep out arguably the best attacking force in the league. Neutrals and indeed some supporters might hope that neither team bother all that defensive solidity and just go for the jugular this early in the season, yet you imagine both managers respect the opposition too much for that to happen.

Considering their record versus the top teams it’s difficult to back against Liverpool, who under Klopp seem able to find a whole new gear to their game when they encounter quality opposition. Moreover, Tottenham, much like they did at Old Trafford recently, will almost certainly have to deal with a breathlessly fast start from their opponents. Though, if they can ride out that probable early storm and get the Wembley crowd behind them then the game could swing in their favour, as facing Pochettino’s consistently strong side is easily Liverpool’s sternest test of the season so far.

It’s a shameless cliche but this fixture really is a tough one to call. Spurs destroyed Liverpool in the same fixture last autumn yet predictably things have changed since then and with a possible World Cup hangover still casting doubt over some of Tottenham’s players coupled with the fact that both influential keeper/captain Hugo Lloris and Dele Alli are out, Liverpool may hold the edge at Wembley, especially when considering their strong early season form. Though it should be noted that the international break could also come into play: will the break in league action affect some players more than others? And perhaps more importantly, how have two managers with everything to prove used the extra week to prepare their sides for this tough early season test?

Whether the answers to these questions end up being relevant to the game’s result or not, the opening game of this week’s Premier League action is likely to be one of high quality where two of the best footballing outfits in the country and their stars will look prove to the world that there is only one spot in the table that they are going for this season.

 

 

 

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