Liverpool vs Tottenham Hotspur is the first fixture in the post-international break run-in for two teams who currently lead their respective races but can’t be confident of winning them just yet.
Jürgen Klopp’s team are two points ahead of Manchester City at the top of the table, but have played a game more. Spurs currently lead the four team chase for two Champions League qualification spots, which is just as well as their league form has nosedived.
In their last five games in all competitions, the Lilywhites have scored a total of four goals with Harry Kane bagging all of them. Only the European game at Dortmund has been won, so the return of Tottenham’s talisman hasn’t had a particularly positive effect upon their results.
The natural assumption would be that Kane has done little other than score in these matches. His dashboard from the league games neatly puts that notion to bed.
However, it is true to say that he has taken a higher proportion of Tottenham’s shots and amassed a greater proportion of their expected goal total than their top shooter (Son three times and Llorente once) did in the four league games he missed. Does Spurs’ attack become too focused upon Kane when he’s in the team? It’s only a small sample, but it’d be interesting to investigate over a longer term.
For Liverpool, the last four league matches have brought three wins and a draw. They’ve effectively had the opposite situation to Spurs; the results have generally been good, but the regular star man has not been firing.
It seems scarcely credible but Mohamed Salah has scored just once in his last ten games. His assist for Sadio Mané in the Allianz Arena may have been sublime, but it’s the only goal he has created recently too. Over the last four league matches, our algorithm has said Joel Matip has been the better player. No, really.
But then this is Salah’s difficult second album. His debut effort for Liverpool flew off the shelves, but his sophomore season has been tougher. And these stats from The Times illustrate why.
Salah has already been tackled more than in the whole of last season as teams have adapted to how he plays — but Liverpool will hope he picks up the gauntlet, writes @_pauljoyce #LFC https://t.co/v1OsHWfQDg pic.twitter.com/hhfIbno97A
— Times Sport (@TimesSport) March 27, 2019
Putting more men on Salah leaves space for others though. Sadio Mané has been in arguably the best form of his career in the last couple of months. His dashboard for the last six matches is an impressive mesh of green in-and-around opposition penalty areas, with red defensive work further back.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Liverpool’s recent squad use is that their top performer on a points-per-minute basis for the whole of 2018/19 has disappeared from view almost entirely.
Has Shaqiri displeased Klopp in some way, or has the manager been saving his Swiss powercube to energise Liverpool’s charge for the title? It seems hugely unlikely that the former Stoke man will start this match, but he could have a part to play from the bench.
Games following international breaks are always tough to predict. However, with Mohamed Salah rested by Egypt he should be fit and firing for this one. Spurs may need to be at their best to keep him under wraps.