England’s best player in Brazil was (arguably) Raheem Sterling and reading between the lines the lightning heeled whippersnapper has carried his good form over to the start of this season. On Sunday we’ll get to see the truth of this for ourselves as Liverpool come to White Hart Lane.
Most of the prematch palaver will centre on former City Stamper Balotelli but my guess is that the game’s outcome will depend more on how we cope with the skills and speed of Sterling than any fireworks from the Italian. Last year’s embarrassing defeat had its extenuating circumstances – injuries, form and a sending off – but the attacking talent at Liverpool’s disposal meant that we’d have struggled anyway. Sterling’s one-man exposure of Kyle Naughton as more corkscrew than full back had a lot to do with that.
The Scousers of course have less bite in attack than last season. The proceeds of the sale of one of the biggest and nastiest cheats ever to grace the Premiership has mostly been spent on strengthening the defence and providing even more trickery in midfield, the jury’s out so far though after a spawny win over Southampton and a loss to Man City as to whether it’s been money well spent.
Liverpool fans talk about being worried about ‘doing a Spurs’ this season after the number of players they’ve brought in over the summer but given the displays of those members of the Magnificent Seven for us on show last Sunday perhaps they shouldn’t be so concerned. Our dominant demolition of an admittedly rubbish QPR was comprehensive and a pleasure to watch. It was also a surprise after the poor viewing served up at Upton Park and in Cyprus where we seemed to have, in both games, a lack of focus as we struggled to string passes together. We got the results though and perhaps the fact that both wins came with goals late in the game is as significant as the performance given the importance that Pochettino places on fitness.
It’s unlikely we’ll see many team changes from last Sunday. Naughton could return but Dier did so well last week that he may continue on the right. Kaboul’s been unconvincing so there’s a small chance that Dier and Vertonghen may form our third Premiership centre back pairing of the season so far. The remainder of the side will be as you were with Lamela, Eriksson and Chadli being asked to supply the hard work we’ll need to keep the Scousers at range and also the creativity we’ll need to get behind Lovren, Skrtel et al.
On paper it’s our first big challenge of the season though Upton Park wasn’t a breeze of course. Man City beat Liverpool by letting them have the ball rather than allowing them to break at them. I’m not sure our defence is good enough for that so I’d expect a more possession based tactics. Whatever approach we take, we’ll as usual need big games from the key men. Eriksson, Lamela, Adebayor, Capoue, Vertonghen and Hugo. If all of these do well, we’ll be in with a shout.
Fatty Dowd is the referee. COYS.
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