Three key battles in Liverpool v Tottenham
Steven Prince examines where Liverpool v Tottenham will be won and lost on Tuesday
Gerrard and Henderson v Bentaleb and Mason
Should the managers select the same centre-midfield pairings from their weekend derby fixtures, Liverpool possess arguably the stronger duo. However, Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason were very impressive against Arsenal and will need a similarly strong performance on Saturday night. Bentaleb and Mason put Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey under continued pressure, giving their more-esteemed rivals a lesson in combative midfield play. Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson received many plaudits last season, but their 2014/15 has been far less stellar. Henderson came on leaps and bounds last season, but the Liverpool vice-captain needs to continue develop further. Once Gerrard leaves in the summer, Henderson will be the senior figure in the Liverpool engine room. Gerrard has been far from his best this season, but is known to raise his game when he needs to. With Liverpool chasing the top-four, whoever wins the centre midfield battle will in all likelihood lead their team to victory tomorrow evening.
Skrtel v Kane
Since Brendan Rodgers took over at Liverpool, he has played around with formation and in particular his defence, but one player has remained a constant throughout his changes – Martin Skrtel. The Slovakian is one of Rodgers’ first names on the team sheet and his abrasive, commanding style of defending makes him integral to Liverpool. His experience is invaluable to Emre Can and Mamadou Sakho, who are the preferred defensive option at present.
Skrtel goes up against the red-hot Harry Kane, whose season goes from strength to strength. Kane has proved the thorn in the side of many defenders in the Premier League and his confidence is going to be sky high ahead of tomorrow’s fixture. Kane will pose Skrtel, who will be tasked with stopping the 21-year-old, a variety of questions. Kane is good on the ground. Kane is good in the air. Kane has the knack of being in the right place at the right time.
Sakho v Eriksen
After Kane, the Danish schemer Christian Eriksen has been Spurs’ shining light this season. He has rescued crucial points for his club and the former Ajax midfielder is a veritable box-of-tricks on his day. He may be slightly outgunned tomorrow night by Sakho in terms of speed and strength, but Eriksen has the requisite guile to cause the Frenchman innumerate problems. On the other hand, Sakho is growing into his new role as part of a back three. The French international arrived from PSG with a large reputation, which has been thus far unfulfilled. But Rodgers clearly sees something in him, and this confidence is likely to permeate into Sakho and cast doubt onto the views of the naysayers. In this battle, the opening exchanges will be key. If Eriksen takes the early ascendancy, Sakho could be in for a torrid Tuesday evening.