With the international break over, attention turns back to the Premier League, with this weekend headline fixture seing Liverpool host Tottenham Hotspurs. The Lilywhites may have lost three of their last four league matches but remain a tough task for Liverpool as the Reds look to strengthen their position in the title race at Anfield on Sunday Liverpool face their toughest remaining test in the Premier League title race when they welcome Tottenham Hotspur to Anfield on Sunday afternoon.
The Reds lead the way at the top of the division by two points, but they have played a game more than champions Manchester City – away to Fulham last Saturday and will likely find themselves in second place ahead of kickoff.
Jurgen Klopp was keen to dismiss suggestions that Liverpool showed title jitters in their most recent outing, a 2-1 win at Fulham, as they required a late James Milner penalty to overcome the division’s second-worst side.
If not for Milner’s nerves of steel from 12 yards, the Reds would have headed into the international break sitting second in the table and with little chance of toppling Man City.
As it is, though, they have occupied top spot for the past fortnight to ensure that City are unable to take their foot off the gas. After this tricky test against an admittedly out-of-form Tottenham side, Liverpool have just one more top-six team – away-day strugglers Chelsea on April 14 – to face in their remaining seven matches.
Klopp also has the Champions League to factor in, with Porto – the best team they could have hoped for – to face over two legs for a place in the semi-finals of the competition.
This is very much shaping up to be a season to remember for Liverpool fans, then, though they more than any other set of supporters – in recent years, at least – know just how quickly joy can turn to pain.
The narrow win over Fulham was, no matter how Klopp puts it, a nervy affair and it was only the Reds’ fourth win in eight league matches. Those dropped points to Leicester City, West Ham United, Manchester United and Everton have allowed Man City to pounce, setting up what should be a thrilling conclusion to one of the best title races in years.
Liverpool also tend to fare well against fellow top-six opposition, having claimed 13 points from games against the sides in and around them this term. Only Man City (19) have collected more, while Man United are the only side to have have won fewer points from such fixtures than Tottenham (seven).
The Reds’ impressive title charge has also been built on an impressive home record and a solid defensive return, though they have conceded six goals in their five Premier League home games in 2019, as many as they had in their previous 17 at Anfield.
Three more points this weekend will make it 37 home league games without defeat and at the same time ensure that Liverpool are very much in the title race to stay. Defeat, though, and it will not take long for the same old ‘bottlers’ tag to be bandied about.
It was only seven weeks ago that Tottenham were themselves being talked up as title contenders – rightly so after holding off Leicester to move to within five points of the top two.
That win at Wembley on February 10 made it four in a row in the top flight, but they have not picked up all three points in their four matches since.
The wheels started to fall off with a shock 2-1 loss at Burnley, which they followed up with a 2-0 reverse to Chelsea, a fortunate 1-1 draw against North London rivals Arsenal and a 2-1 defeat at Southampton last time out.
Victories in both legs of their Champions League last-16 tie against Borussia Dortmund has softened the blow a little, setting up a quarter-final with Man City and ensuring that their campaign is not over just yet.
Any outside hopes Mauricio Pochettino had of lifting the Premier League title this term are now over, however, and all of a sudden Tottenham are looking over their shoulder rather than ahead at the top two.
The defeat to Southampton three weeks ago, which Pochettino found particularly hard to accept following the concession of two late goals, leaves the Lilywhites’ top-four hopes looking a lot more precarious than they did a month ago.
In fact, with Arsenal taking on Newcastle United, Chelsea heading to Cardiff City and Man United playing host to Watford, defeat for Tottenham on Sunday could be pretty disastrous.
They hold a one-point advantage on fifth-placed Arsenal and are three points better off than Man United, while Chelsea are four points behind. This weekend, if all goes to form, could see the race for a top-four finish well and truly heat up.
- Liverpool have lost just one of their last 24 home Premier League games against Spurs (W15 D8 L1), a 0-2 defeat in May 2011 under Kenny Dalglish.
- Only Man City (19) have won more points than Liverpool (13) in Premier League meetings between the ‘big six’ this season, while only Man Utd (6) have won fewer points than Tottenham in such matches (7).
- Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 36 home Premier League matches. If they avoid defeat here, it will be the joint-second longest unbeaten home run in the competition’s history (Chelsea 86 2004-2008, Man City 37 2010-2012).
- The Reds have conceded six goals in their five Premier League home games in 2019, as many as they had in their previous 17 at Anfield.
- No player has scored more Premier League goals in 2019 than Liverpool’s Sadio Mane (9, level with Sergio Aguero), with the Senegalese star’s nine goals coming in his last nine games.
- Spurs have won just one of their last 12 Premier League games against Liverpool (W1 D4 L7), winning 4-1 at Wembley in October 2017.
- Spurs are winless in their last four Premier League games (D1 L3). They last went five without a win in the same campaign back in February-March 2012 under Harry Redknapp.
- Mauricio Pochettino has never won against Jurgen Klopp at Anfield in four meetings in all competitions (W0 D2 L2). His only victory away against Liverpool was as Southampton manager in September 2013 when the Reds were managed by Brendan Rodgers.
- Harry Kane has been involved in four goals in four Premier League appearances against Liverpool at Anfield (3 goals, 1 assist).
- After a run that saw him score 11 goals in 12 games in all competitions between December and February, Son Heung-min has failed to score in his last five appearances for Spurs. Indeed, each of Spurs’ last four goals in all competitions have been netted by Harry Kane.