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5 talking points ahead of today's Liverpool-Tottenham game

Can the Reds combat the threat of Adebayor? Will Jordan Henderson dominate?

Image: EMPICS Sport

1. Are Liverpool going to persist with the midfield diamond?

LIVERPOOL HAVE OPERATED with a midfield diamond in recent matches to varying degrees of success.

The formation worked perfectly against Manchester United, as it facilitated one of their easiest and most comprehensive wins at Old Trafford in recent memory.

Nevertheless, Liverpool were less convincing while operating with the diamond in the recent wins over Cardiff, Southampton and Sunderland.

The formation can sometimes leave the Reds’ defence, which is vulnerable enough as it is, looking exposed, while the lack of width afforded by this strategy also limits their attacking options to an extent.

Assuming they adopt this style once again, its success (or lack thereof) may depend on the way in which Spurs set out.

If their wingers, Andros Townsend and Aaron Lennon start, then Liverpool’s full-backs could have a busy day, with Spurs’ full-backs generally fond of making overlapping runs.

Alternately, should Tottenham play with a narrow midfield encompassing the likes of Christian Eriksen and Gylfi Sigurdsson, then it could be a far scrappier and less open game, with both sides potentially cancelling each other out amid excess bodies in the centre of the park.

2. Can Tottenham cope with Jordan Henderson’s energy?

In the previous fixture between these two teams, Jordan Henderson dominated the midfield, as he has done so often in matches this season.

It remains to be seen whether Spurs are equipped to combat Henderson’s energy. Sandro is their primary holding midfielder, and while he is accomplished in the tackle, he lacks pace and is prone to dwelling on the ball and conceding possession cheaply as a result.

Furthermore, Nabil Bentlab is also hardly suited to stopping the ex-Sunderland man. He comes across as more of a flair midfielder with attacking instincts.

Henderson’s driving runs and excellent athleticism could consequently be a big problem for a Spurs midfield that often looks lightweight for all the players’ ability to play neat and tidy football that’s pleasing on  the eye.

Moreover, the Reds’ energy and high-intensity pressing in general could cause their opponents to commit the type of errors they made against Chelsea — a team with a similar playing philosophy to Brendan Rodgers’ side — on a regular basis.

3. Will Raheem Sterling start?

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Manchester United v Liverpool - Old Trafford Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

(Sterling was excellent in Liverpool’s win over Man United)

The youngster has been on the bench for Liverpool’s  last two matches, not starting since their triumphant 3-0 win over United.

That may seem harsh, given that it was generally agreed that the English youngster played quite well that day.

But was he dropped or rested? It’s easy to forget that Sterling is still only developing at 19, so Brendan Rodgers is understandably reluctant to play him too regularly for the moment.

He was one of Liverpool’s star men when they beat Tottenham 5-0 in the reverse fiture earlier in the season, so it would be no surprise to see him start today.

If Sterling does come in, it will surely be in place of Philippe Coutinho rather than Joe Allen — save the 6-3 game against Cardiff, the Anfield club have looked considerably more solid defensively since the Welsh international was handed a regular starting berth in the side.

4. How ambitious will Spurs’ approach be?

Under both Tim Sherwood and AVB, Tottenham have at times tended to play a very high defensive line.

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Occasionally, the consequences have been disastrous, such as in the 6-1 thrashing by Man City and the 5-0 defeat against Liverpool.

On both the aforementioned occasions, the terminally slow Michael Dawson’s lack of pace was badly exposed by this system.

Against Arsenal on the other hand, it worked slightly more successfully despite losing 1-0, partially because they had quicker defenders in Younes Kaboul and Jan Vertonghen at their disposal, thus allowing them to push up on Arsenal and control the possession and tempo.

Nevertheless, today represents a very different challenge. While Olivier Giroud’s lack of pace meant Spurs were less likely to be punished on the break, Suarez and Sturridge specialise in punishing teams on the counter-attack.

Consequently, if Tottenham opt to play a high line today, the decision could prove fatal.

5. Will Liverpool be able to cope with Emmanuel Adebayor?

The Togo striker has been out injured recently, but looks set to return for this encounter.

On his day, Adebayor is one of the best attackers in the Premier League, possessing a formidable mix of physical prowess coupled with acceleration levels that few strikers his size can emulate.

Liverpool’s centre-back pairing of Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel have often looked unconvincing this season — particularly when defending set pieces — but they’ll have to be at their most alert today to combat the ex-Arsenal man’s aerial threat.

That said, Adebayor’s influence has invariably been peripheral against the big sides this season and the forward has been renowned for showing inconsistent form throughout his career. Yet with Tottenham on a good run and still having an outside chance of Champions League football, surely even he can get himself up for today’s game.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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