EPL

Big Match Focus: Tottenham v Liverpool (Saturday 17:30 GMT)

By Sports Desk January 09, 2020

There is never a good time to face the current Liverpool team but Jose Mourinho's beleaguered Tottenham team could well do without meeting the Premier League leaders on this particular weekend.

Spurs are winless in their last three games in all competitions and have won just one of their last four in the top flight, leaving them sixth and a staggering 28 points behind the Reds after 21 games.

Liverpool, in stark contrast, can rack up their 12th consecutive Premier League win if they triumph at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and will be well rested having fielded a team largely made up of fringe players in their 1-0 FA Cup victory over Everton.

At their best Liverpool look unstoppable, but Tottenham have only lost one league home game in four months and Mourinho would love nothing more than to put his side's season back on track by putting a speedbump under the Anfield juggernaut.

 

ACID TEST FOR SPURS' POUROUS DEFENCE

Since Mourinho's arrival, Spurs have kept just one clean sheet and any Tottenham fans anticipating a more miserly rearguard action under the Portuguese have been disappointed thus far.

Defensive fragility has been Tottenham's Achilles heel all season, and their record of two domestic clean sheets this term is bettered by every top-flight club except stragglers Norwich City.

Liverpool, meanwhile, have scored in their last 29 top-flight matches and are steaming towards Manchester United's record of finding the net in 36 consecutive Premier League games, which the Red Devils set in November 2008.

Stopping Liverpool means stopping Sadio Mane, who has been involved in 11 goals in his last nine Premier League appearances, scoring six goals and assisting five.

Mane picked up the African Player of the Year award earlier in the week and will no doubt be in the mood to celebrate with a goal in North London.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: JAN VERTONGHEN v VIRGIL VAN DIJK

Among those tasked with stopping Mane, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino et al will be Tottenham centre-back Jan Vertonghen, who has started in 14 of Spurs' 21 league games this season.

The Belgium international's contract is up at the end of the season and his lacklustre performance in Tottenham's 1-1 FA Cup draw with Middlesbrough prompted calls for him to be let go by sections of the club's support.

But in answering his critics Vertonghen might point to his duel success rate of 74.02 per cent this season, which stands up well against the imperious Virgil van Dijk who has won 75.58 per cent of his Premier League duels this season.

Van Dijk has been successful in 64.29 per cent of his tackles this term, while Vertonghen has won 58.82 per cent of his, and Van Dijk's nine blocks put him just one ahead of his Tottenham counterpart.

Van Dijk dramatically outshines Vertonghen in the air, winning 101 aerial balls compared to the Belgian's 42, and the Dutchman can boast seven league clean sheets this season.

Perhaps most worrying for Mourinho is that the 32-year-old Vertonghen has been dribbled past on 10 occasions across the course of the campaign - seven more times than Van Dijk, who so rarely gets beaten on the ground or in the air.

FORM GUIDE

Liverpool have scored seven goals without reply in their last two Premier League away games, which extended their winning streak on the road to four consecutive games.

But Spurs do have an omen in their favour: in their last 10 home league games against sides starting the day top of the table, Tottenham have won six (D1 L3).

That said, getting a result against Liverpool requires Spurs to break down the Premier League's meanest defence, and they will have to do so without the injured Harry Kane.

Tottenham have won just two of their last 12 games in all competitions without Kane (D4 L6) and when the England striker has been missing this season his team-mates have failed to win at all (D3 L1).

HISTORY SAYS

Recent meetings with Liverpool have not gone well for Tottenham, who have won just one of their last 14 Premier League games against the Reds (D4 L9), winning 4-1 at Wembley in October 2017.

It was not always this way: Liverpool lost five consecutive games at Tottenham between 2008 and 2012, but in their last six league visits they have claimed three wins and two draws.

Victory on Saturday would mark Liverpool's fourth consecutive win in London - a feat they have not achieved since October 1989.

Liverpool's tally of 58 points from 20 Premier League games this season has already eclipsed their totals from the entirety of the 2011-12 and 1998-99 campaigns, and their charge towards the title will take some stopping at Spurs.

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