Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
Wembley Stadium is gearing up to host a titanic Premier League clash between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool on Saturday. It’s the kind of fixture that sets nerves jangling, leaving supporters white knuckled and gripping seats.
In the last ten meetings between two of the league’s great entertainers thirty-five goals have flown in. Though really, that statistical output only scratches the surface of what’s been a compelling series of action-packed encounters packed with more plotlines than a Hollyoaks omnibus.
Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off in the capital promises to be just as enthralling. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that could decide the outcome of the game.
Read our Tottenham Hotspur vs Liverpool match preview, predictions and betting tips here.
The man in the middle
When it was announced that Michael Oliver was the designated referee for Saturday’s Wembley showdown, it’s likely that the news garnered very different reactions at Spurs Enfield Training Centre and at Melwood in Liverpool.
Oliver is one of the most experienced and well-respected referees in the Premier League, though he isn’t quite so highly thought of in Liverpool. Oliver has taken charge of games involving the Merseysiders more than any other club, refereeing 33 fixtures featuring Liverpool in all though the Reds won just 14 of them.
More recently, Liverpool have won just 1 of their last 6 games with Oliver in charge.
Conversely, Tottenham are on an 8-match winning streak in games refereed by Oliver and have won 18 of their 29 games under his instruction in all.
Lovren absence good news
Croatian centre half Dejan Lovren’s stomach complaint is set to keep him on the sidelines for at least another month as Liverpool allow him all the time he needs to recover fully from his injury.
But while the absence of a potential first team starter is usually a cause for concern, on this occasion at least, Dejan Lovren missing the game isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
In the corresponding Tottenham Hotspur vs Liverpool fixture last season, Lovren produced an individual performance of such abhorrence, that he was withdrawn from the action after just 31 minutes.
Lovren made two catastrophic errors in the early exchanges of the contest at Wembley, allowing Harry Kane in to score the game’s first goal before losing the England man again as he sprinted away to lay on a second for Son Heung Min.
From there, Kane continued to torment Lovren, chipping away at his confidence until the Croatian was left limp and useless. It was the sort of performance that leaves permanent mental scarring.
Lovren’s Wembley absence may be enforced this weekend, though even if he was fit, Jurgen Klopp is unlikely to have started him. Joe Gomez is in the form of his life playing alongside Virgil van Dijk at the heart of the Liverpool defence and he would almost certainly have started ahead of a fit Dejan Lovren on merit.
With Lovren out of the team, Spurs and Harry Kane are denied the psychological edge they would have had with the shaky Lovren on the pitch.
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Formation, formation, formation
Spurs Manager Mauricio Pochettino has toyed with several formations so far this season, bringing a flexibility and elasticity to the structure of his team that’s been refreshing if a little hit and miss.
Away at Newcastle in the first Premier League game of 2018/19, Spurs set up in a 4-3-2-1 formation, with Lucas Moura and Christian Eriksen patrolling the space behind Harry Kane and in front of a central midfield three of Moussa Sissoko, Eric Dier and Dele Ali.
Spurs eked out a 2-1 win, but they were far from convincing at St. James’ Park. Tottenham switched to three at the back, moving to a 3-1-4-2 formation for their next match against Fulham, which resulted in a more fluid performance and more emphatic 3-1 final score.
Against Manchester United at Old Trafford, Pochettino mixed it up again, setting his team up in a 4-3-1-2 formation with Harry Kane and Lucas Moura partnered in attack. Spurs were superb, cruising to a 3-0 victory despite missing various other wonderful opportunities.
Pochettino reshaped his team again for their visit to Watford, reverting to the 3-1-4-2 we saw against Fulham, however this time Spurs came undone. The reshuffled team lacked cohesion and slipped to a 2-1 defeat at Vicarage Road, despite taking the lead in the second half.
This weekend, Pochettino has a huge tactical decision to make. Will he return to the formation that earned his team a fabulous win at Old Trafford or will he have a fresh structure in mind to combat a Liverpool side who rarely deviate from their 4-3-3 set up?
Liverpool’s first real test
Title hopefuls Liverpool have started their 2018/19 Premier League campaign in impressive fashion, but even though their results have been statistically flawless, their actual performances have been anything but.
The fixture list has been relatively kind to Liverpool so far, and Jurgen Klopp would have expected to pick up maximum points from games against West Ham, Crystal Palace, Brighton and Leicester respectively.
However, Liverpool looked flat and unimaginative in their recent 1-0 home win against the Seagulls and looked equally out of sorts despite winning 2-1 at the King Power Stadium against Leicester the following week.
Liverpool came through some patchy recent performances largely unscathed, but while Brighton and Leicester lacked the quality to punish the Reds lethargy, Spurs certainly don’t.
If Liverpool fall back into hebetude at Wembley on Saturday, their winning streak will come to an abrupt halt.
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