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With Liverpool’s attacking misfiring and Tottenham likely to go with a cautious game plan, goals could be at a premium.
Under 2.5 (+108)
|Tottenham vs Liverpool Information
|Tottenham vs Liverpool
|The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, England
|Thursday, 28 January 2021, 3 PM EST
|How to watch
It has been a difficult few weeks for Liverpool. On Sunday they were knocked out of the FA Cup by arch-rivals Manchester United. Last Thursday their 68-game unbeaten Premier League home record was ended by Burnley, who upset the odds to run out 1-0 winners at Anfield. Jurgen Klopp’s side have slipped to fourth in the standings after failing to win any of their last five matches. They may have dropped further by the time their game against Tottenham begins on Thursday.
Liverpool won the reverse fixture 2-1 in December thanks to a Roberto Firmino header in second-half stoppage time. That was an engaging, yet cagey, encounter. We can expect more of the same this week. For that reason, under 2.5 goals is the way to go here.
When Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez suffered season-ending injuries in the fall, many predicted that Liverpool’s formerly solid defense would quickly crumble. That has not happened. Liverpool have conceded 22 goals in 19 games, which is more than you would usually expect from the reigning champions. Yet half of those came in their first four matches of the campaign when Van Dijk and Gomez were both still fit.
The problem, surprisingly, has been at the other end of the field. Liverpool smashed seven goals past Crystal Palace in the middle of December, although the scoreline at Selhurst Park was a little misleading: the Reds scored with virtually every shot they took that day. Since then Klopp’s men have found the back of the net just once in five games. More than any other part of the team, it is the attack that is letting Liverpool down right now.
However, it is important to remember that soccer is a fluid sport. We cannot simply compartmentalize different areas of the side. In Liverpool’s case, their attacking woes can be traced back to the absences of Van Dijk and Gomez in the heart of the backline.
For a start, Liverpool are missing Van Dijk’s distribution from deep. The Dutchman is a master at playing long diagonal passes from the back and setting Liverpool on the attack quickly. Secondly, midfielders like Fabinho and Jordan Henderson have been forced to fill in at center-back as a result of the injuries. As such, Liverpool lacks their usual bite in midfield. On top of that, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, and Roberto Firmino all look tired. Unfortunately for the Reds, this has all the ingredients of a perfect storm.
Tottenham knows what a sticky patch looks like. They went through one in December, a month in which Jose Mourinho’s side emerged triumphant on just one occasion. Defeats by Liverpool and Leicester City, together with draws at Crystal Palace and Wolverhampton Wanderers, seemed to suggest Spurs were not genuine title contenders after all.
The outlook is not so gloomy heading into this fixture. Tottenham have had a positive January, advancing to the League Cup final as well as the fifth round of the FA Cup. They have taken seven points from a possible nine in the Premier League and began the game week seven points behind table-topping Manchester United with a game in hand. Perhaps, in this most turbulent of seasons, Spurs are not out of the title race just yet.
That is probably true, but they are clearly underdogs – DraftKings Sportsbook rates their chances at +2500, behind Manchester United, Manchester City, and Leicester as well as their upcoming opponents. Beating the so-called smaller sides has been Tottenham’s Achilles heel this term, with eight points dropped against teams in the bottom half of the table. That is the principal doubt surrounding their championship credentials, rather than any notable weaknesses in games against fellow big-six opposition like this one.
The reverse fixture in December was a captivating contest involving two teams employing vastly different approaches. While Liverpool dominated the ball and pinned Tottenham back for much of the game, their opponents were content to limit themselves to sporadic forays forward on the break. Whereas Spurs edged it in terms of the quality of chances, Liverpool won out on quantity.
The game plans might not be so diverse this time around; Tottenham are at home and Liverpool’s confidence has taken a hit. Yet Spurs will again focus on sitting deep and hitting the visitors on the counter-attack, as is Mourinho’s won’t in matches like this. It is always risky to allow a team of Liverpool’s quality so much possession, but their recent struggles up front suggest that sort of approach may well bear fruit this time around.
The upshot is that we are unlikely to see a six-goal thriller in north London on Thursday. Liverpool has the quality to blow any team away on their day, but they will be more cautious than usual amid a poor run of form.
Some would argue that the win is there for the taking for Tottenham, but the evidence of the last 15 years points to Mourinho’s persevering with a reactive game plan that divides opinion like no other. This should still be a fascinating match to watch, but it might not contain an abundance of goals.
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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