Liverpool preview with Phil McNulty, BBC Sport
Analysis in our 'Preview from the Press Box' feature
14 September 2018|Tottenham Hotspur
The Premier League is back and we've turned to Phil McNulty, BBC Sport's Chief Football Writer, for his thoughts on Saturday's cracker against Liverpool in our latest 'Preview from the Press Box'.
Phil has years of experience working at the very highest level of football in his role as BBC Sport's Chief Football Writer - and being born in Liverpool, knows both the Red and Blue halves of Merseyside inside-out. This summer's World Cup was his fifth for the BBC.
Liverpool’s form so far...
Liverpool’s form this season is interesting because even though they have four wins out of four I don’t think they’ve been anywhere near their best yet – which must actually be very satisfying for manager Jurgen Klopp. They dealt with West Ham United very easily but they have had their tough moments against Crystal Palace, Brighton and Leicester City and came out of the other side with three points in each game.
Liverpool were blowing teams away on a regular basis last season but so far they have been a little more workmanlike, but perhaps this shows the development of the side, demonstrating that they are becoming more solid and have more than one string to their bow. It says a lot that they can still produce a lot more and yet still have maximum points.
This will be Liverpool’s biggest test so far and probably Tottenham’s as well, even more so than the win at Manchester United because I currently rate Klopp’s team as better than Mourinho’s.
Liverpool and Spurs have every right to believe they can make a serious title challenge this season so this is one of the biggest games we have seen so far. It has all the makings of a classic with two teams and two managers in Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino so committed to attacking football. It will certainly be a good measure of what both sides might be able to achieve this season.
Liverpool’s key man
It’s easy to look at the likes of Mo Salah or Sadio Mane but I’m going to look elsewhere and go for defender Virgil van Dijk, not just in the context of this game but overall this season.
Van Dijk has been magnificent since he made that £75m move from Southampton in January. It is no co-incidence that Liverpool have been so much more secure defensively since then and he has shown exactly why Klopp had his heart set on him and refused to countenance any second choices for that crucial central defensive position.
The win at Palace was a good example. Liverpool were under the cosh at times at Selhurst Park and in past seasons they may have gone under, but Van Dijk was superb as they protected a 1-0 lead then struck on the break in the closing seconds to seal the win. He has been a key signing and if Liverpool are to mount a real challenge in the Premier League this season Van Dijk will be central to their plans.
I think this one will come down to which defence copes better with the opposition’s attack as both Liverpool and Spurs are so creative and potent. Harry Kane has proved to be a thorn in Liverpool’s side in the past while Pochettino will not need anyone to tell him about the huge threat posed by Salah, Mane and Roberto Firmino.
These are two high quality teams in an offensive sense but I believe whichever defence comes out on top will have a huge bearing on the outcome – although subduing Liverpool and Spurs is much easier said than done.
I’m thinking goals and honours even. 2-2.