Tottenham Will Outmuscle Liverpool to Ruin Klopp’s Debut

Jul 28, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Nacer Chadli during training in advance of the 2015 MLS All Star Game at Dick
Jul 28, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Nacer Chadli during training in advance of the 2015 MLS All Star Game at Dick /

Much of the talk about tomorrow’s match-up between Liverpool and Tottenham has centered around the two managers. Jurgen Klopp takes the reigns for Liverpool in his first fixture and Tottenham is led by Mauricio Pochettino fresh off his manager of the month award. That’s all well and good, but this game won’t be played by either of those two. Instead, it will be determined by each team’s players and when comparing the two, Tottenham boasts the much more physical lineup. Look for that physicality to provide them an edge and ruin Klopp’s debut.

One of the challenges of predicting this game lies in the uncertainty around Klopp’s team selection. It’s a safe bet that he will employ the same 4-2-3-1 system he utilzed at Dortmund, but his selections particularly in midfield aren’t exactly crystal clear. The most likely attacking midfield trio would be to line up Adam Lallana, James Milner and Philippe Coutinho in some order. That would leave them to be protected by a likely midfield pairing of Emre Can and Lucas Leiva. This is quite a creative midfield but lacks any sort of intimidating physical presence.

On the other hand, Tottenham’s lineup is much easier to predict. Eric Dier is, fortunately for Liverpool, suspended for this match due to yellow card accumulation, but otherwise the selections are pretty straight forward. Again, focusing on the midfield look for Tottenham to employ an attacking trio of Christian Eriksen, Nacer Chadli and Erik Lamela. Dele Alli seems a safe bet to occupy one of the defensive midfield spots and most expect Mousa Dembele to man the other. This projected lineup boasts plenty of skill, but also a key physical element that could shift the game in their favor.

Lallana, Coutinho and Milner don’t offer much in the way of physical play. Milner has a terrific work rate but isn’t going to throw his weight around too much. Coutinho and Lallana might be two of the least physical players in the Premier League. Contrast that to Tottenham and you can easily see a large difference. Eriken isn’t a physical threat but Chadli and Lamela certainly are. Lamela will use his tireless work rate to bother the opponent and in a strange way, his propensity for a reckless challenge makes him a physical threat. While Chadli can be anonymous in the attack, he should find a way to impact this game by out-muscling his opposition. Ironically, this is a great matchup for a player who I generally think is better suited as a substitute.

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  • Even as defensive midfielders go, Liverpool will be a little light. Can and Leiva are both talented players, but neither is all that intimidating. Similar to Chadli, I am not that high on Mousa Dembele in a vacuum but think this matchup fits him exceptionally well. He should find it relatively easy to control play and possession in the middle of the park against the light Liverpool midfield. This doesn’t begin to account for the creativity of Dele Alli who I think will really trouble Can and Leiva with his runs from the midfield.

    When you’re unsure who to select in a Premier League matchup it’s wise to pick the team with the stronger midfield. The same is true here. Both teams have very capable strikers and reasonably solid defenses so the real war will be waged in the middle of the park. Look for Tottenham to win that physical war, and the match, as a result.

    Prediction: 2-1 Spurs