With no further interruptions to the end of the season, Liverpool have a straight stretch of seven matches that will define their Premier League title challenge. The Reds go into the final weekend of March top of the pile, although it’s most likely that they’ll have been overtaken by Manchester City by the time they kick off against Tottenham at Anfield on Sunday.
On paper, this is the toughest fixture remaining for Liverpool, with Spurs the highest-placed team of the seven they will meet between now and mid-May. Mauricio Pochettino’s side have stumbled in recent weeks, but the impending and long overdue move to their new stadium, coupled with a first Champions League quarter-final in nine years, means that there is a wave of optimism around that part of North London.
Our statistical analysis previews Liverpool v Tottenham, the standout fixture from this weekend’s Premier League action.
Last six Premier League games
Liverpool: W4, D2, L0, F14, A3, Pts 14
Tottenham: W2, D1, L3, F7, A8, Pts 7
In beating Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage a fortnight ago, Liverpool won consecutive Premier League games for the first time in two months, although three wins on the bounce in all competitions suggests that they have overcome their late winter wobble. Perversely, they did not keep a clean sheet in any of those victories, having gone five games without conceding prior to the 4-2 defeat of Burnley on 10 March. The Reds have found their scoring touch again, though, with nine in their last three matches, having failed to score in three of their previous four games beforehand.
Tottenham have hit their worst league form of the season since mid-February, winless in four and with only one point from the last 12 on offer. That came against Arsenal at the start of this month, their first and so far only draw in 30 Premier League games this season. Their downturn in form has seen their priorities shift from mounting an unlikely title challenge to scrapping for a top-four finish, with only four points separating them from sixth-placed Chelsea. Their last away win domestically came against Fulham on 20 January, with their last three league trips all ending in defeat.
Premier League head-to-head record
Liverpool have had the upper hand over the previous 26 Premier League seasons, with Tottenham only recording two victories at Anfield in that time. The last of those was towards the tail end of the 2010/11 season, coming too late for Spurs to steal a Champions League place. They have drawn twice in their last three visits to Liverpool, though, and rattled off a sequence of five straight home victories over the Reds between 2008 and 2012.
Pochettino’s side recorded one of their best-ever victories over Liverpool last season, winning 4-1 at Wembley, but the Merseysiders will fondly recall how, this time five years ago, they thumped Spurs 4-0 in this very fixture in the midst of a two-way title tussle with Manchester City. Three months previously, Liverpool had memorably won 5-0 at White Hart Lane. It’s a fixture that evokes the rarity of a happy memory for Mario Balotelli in his time at Anfield; the Italian’s only Premier League goal for the Reds was the winner in a 3-2 thriller in February 2015.
Last Anfield meeting
Liverpool 2-2 Tottenham, 4 February 2018
It was one of those games that Sky Sports would absolutely lap up – cracking goals, late drama, controversial decisions and a missed penalty. Latecomers to Anfield would have missed the opening goal, Mohamed Salah netting inside two and a half minutes for the home side. It remained 1-0 for the majority of the match, with Liverpool putting in an uncharacteristically steely performance, but, from the 80th minute onwards, all hell broke loose.
Victor Wanyama started it with a 30-yard piledriver that left Loris Karius helpless. Four minutes later, Harry Kane won a contentious penalty for Spurs which he took but Karius saved. Soon after that reprieve in front of the Kop, Salah seemed to have won it with a sensational solo goal in stoppage time. It was worthy of being the winner but, four minutes into added time, a needless foul gave Spurs another penalty. Kane made no mistake this time, rescuing a point for the visitors after a breathless final quarter-hour to the game.
Not much separating the clubs’ leading marksmen
Sergio Aguero currently tops the Premier League scoring charts on 18 goals, one ahead of four other players. Three of those are likely to feature at Anfield this weekend, with Salah, Sadio Mane and Kane all on 17. Both teams’ next most potent finishers are on 11 goals each, the tally reached by Roberto Firmino and Son Heung-min so far this season. The table below shows a month-by-month accumulation of goals for the five strikers.
While Mane and Kane both hit the ground running, the England captain scoring his first August Premier League goals in his fifth season as a Spurs regular, Firmino had to wait until September to get off the mark and Son had a very slow start by his standards, not registering his first goal until 24 November in the 3-1 win over Chelsea. He barely featured in the opening weeks of the season, though, not getting his first start until the matchday 6 win over Brighton.
With both clubs playing seven Premier League games in December, their leading marksmen kept their goal tallies ticking over busily. Salah, Kane and Son all scored six in the final month of 2018, the South Korean’s dam well and truly bursting. By this stage of the season, it was Mane experiencing a trough, the Senegal man scoring only twice in December after a blank November.
Although Son was away for a large portion of January due to the Asian Cup, he still scored one more goal that month than Kane, whose new year began with an injury that kept him sidelined for several weeks. The Liverpool trio were having no trouble scoring, though, hitting seven between them in January despite the Reds losing to Manchester City and drawing with Leicester.
Mane has been in imperious form of late, scoring eight in the league in the last two months, whereas Salah and Firmino have only managed three between them in that time, the Egyptian stuck on 17 Premier League goals since netting in the 3-0 win over Bournemouth seven weeks ago. Son has also hit a dry patch, his last league goal coming on that same weekend as Salah’s, although Kane has added three more to his tally since returning from injury towards the end of February.
All five have had ups and downs this season in front of goal, but a cumulative total of 73 league goals, an average of just under 15 each, shows their importance to their respective clubs as the final weeks of the season loom large. Salah, Mane, Firmino, Kane and Son hold the keys to whether Liverpool and Spurs will achieve their current objectives or fall short as both clubs have had a tendency to do in recent years.