Oct 20, 2017

Sorry Spurs Fans: We Probably Won't Beat Liverpool

File this one under posts I will be very happy to be wrong about. But a Tottenham Hotspur victory over Liverpool in Sunday's marquee Premier League matchup is looking very unlikely indeed. So, fellow Spurs fans, it is probably a good idea for us to temper our expectations, as giddy as we might be after this week's impressive showing at the Bernabeu. There are a number of reasons for this:

Start with history. Past performance is not always a reliable indicator of future results, as any investor will tell you. But if there's a pattern, well, then there's a pattern. Historically, Liverpool have won or drawn almost two-thirds of these matches, according to data compiled by 11v11.com: the tally now reads 80 wins for Liverpool and 47 for Spurs with 41 draws. The recent history has been even more in Liverpool's favor; it's been almost five years since the last time Tottenham won this matchup. You have to go back to the first term of the Obama administration, to Nov. 28, 2012 when Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale scored in a 2-1 victory at White Hart Lane. Since then it has been seven Liverpool victories and three draws. Most recently, in February, Reds beat us 2-0 at Anfield in one of Spurs' worst performances of the entire season.

Which is the other part of this: Not only do Liverpool play us tough, but we invariably play poorly in these matches. During one three-game stretch in 2013 and 2014, Liverpool won by a combined 12-0 (consecutive victories of 5-nil, 4-nil and 3-nil). Some of that overlapped with the season Liverpool bottled competed for the title, but still. And then there's the Wembley factor. While we aren't buying any of this Wembley hex talk, it is undeniable that, domestically at least, Tottenham simply do not play well at their temporary home. Perhaps it's how the size of the pitch is affecting our pressing game, as Danny Higginbotham points out here. Whatever the reason, something ain't working.

Spurs have had the benefit of weak teams visiting Wembley to get off the schneid and impress with an offensive performance to remember: Swansea, Burnley and Bournemouth were the last three opponents and suffice it to say we're still waiting for the goals to flow in any number. (For the record, Swansea was a scoreless draw, Burnley finished 1-1 when we gave up a late equalizer thanks to Kieran Tripper and while Bournemouth was our first ever league victory at Wembley, it was by the narrowest of 1-0 margins. Against a team firmly ensconsed in the relegation zone). The lack of goals is only the most apparent problem. The greater concern is the inability to create bonafide chances. Something is missing in the attacking third of the pitch, a final link in the chain appears to have been removed from Spurs' attacking play at White Hart Lane last season. Dele Alli is trying to do too much, in too many places, at too many times. His connection with Harry Kane, which at times was almost telepathic last year, is nowhere near as fluid. Christian Eriksen, too, has been uninspiring at various points -- nowhere more so than against Real at midweek, where he was the one negative in an otherwise masterful performance by the team.

Liverpool, of course, are beset by their own problems. Some of them, ironically, may stem from the same cause as Spurs', namely being forced to dial back the pressing game. And of course much has been said and written about Liverpool's poor defense, and justifiably so. Whether this is the fault of Juergen Klopp or some other factor is a conversation best left for a different day. But surely Reds' defense is better than Swansea's or Bournemouth's? If Spurs are unable to create real chances against these clubs, can they really be expected to accomplish this task against Liverpool? Maybe this will finally be the week the Tottenham attack finds its groove and shows the prowess it has displayed away from home? But it may not be smart to make that bet. The U.K. bookmakers all have Liverpool as strong favorites to win. Oddsmakers can be, and often are wrong of course, but they set their odds for a reason. Set pieces have been Liverpool's downfall but here too Spurs have yet to find their groove. Of the 17 goals scored in league play this season, we can recall just two coming from set pieces (Alli's off of a corner versus Burnley and Eriksen's against West Ham. Please let us know if you recall others). And Liverpool's defense was vastly improved in their last game against Man United. We unfortunately can't see them giving up more than a goal or two to Spurs tomorrow. Not with the way things have been going.

Okay, so might a draw be in the offing? The bookies have a draw even less likely than a Spurs victory. But Klopp has never won a competitive match at Wembley. Liverpool's attack is as impressive as their defense is underwhelming, but Tottenham have arguably the best backline in the league (maybe even in all of Europe) and good defense typically beats good offense. Plus Sadio Mane is out injured. Reds beat up on poor Maribor in midweek Champions League action but were unable to break down a stubborn Manchester United defense (and midfield. And, well, everything since Jose Mourinho parked the bus) last weekend. Liverpool have scored more than one goal in a match just once since August -- a stretch of games that included Burnley and Newcastle. Spurs have everybody healthy defensively, probably even Danny Rose (though probably not for the full game). Cartilage Free Captain expects Heung-Min Son and Dele Alli to start for Spurs with Trippier rotating into Serge Aurier's spot at right wingback, but this is very much an 'A' Spurs squad that will take the pitch. For these reasons a draw may be more likely than oddsmakers are anticipating. We predict Tottenham 0, Liverpool 0.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated Sadio Mane's first name.


  1. This article is pure trash. Where is the analysis? Lazy.

  2. Yeah, this was wrong.