Best odds: 53/20
Tottenham Hotspur are scheduled to play host to Liverpool at their stadium in North London which still bears the name of the club on Sunday, in a game that will be a part of Matchday 15 of the 2022/23 Premier League campaign, though it will actually be match No. 14 for the hosts and No. 13 for the visitors.
Spurs fans may have had a bit of a scare recently with rumours suggesting head coach Antonio Conte might leave to retake his old job at Juventus, but former Juventus star Alessandro Del Piero believes there’s no truth in those claims and in all honesty, Del Piero has a very good point. Conte has moved on from Juventus, and whether they need him or not, he doesn’t need them and though future may hold unforeseen twists and turns, at the moment, it’s hard to imagine him leaving Spurs.
The main reason is, of course, the fact that his team are doing relatively well, despite some criticism about their style appearing too ‘negative’ for some. Spurs are currently third the Premier League table, five points behind leaders Arsenal and three behind defending champions Manchester City. On top of that, they’ve managed to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League, finishing top of Group D ahead of Eintracht Frankfurt, Sporting Lisbon and Olympique Marseille.
The form Spurs have been showing in recent matches has, however, been a mixed bag, with three wins, one draw and two defeats making up their last-six run. They beat Everton at home by 2-0, lost away to Manchester United by the same result, lost 1-2 at home against Newcastle, drew 1-1 with Sporting Lisbon at home, beat Bournemouth away by 2-3, and eventually beat Marseille this week, also away, by 1-2.
Spurs actually went 1-0 down at the end of the first half of that match, with Chancel Mbemba Mangulu scoring the opening goal for the Ligue 1 side, before Clement Lenglet eqalized nine minutes after the restart, and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg produced a 95th-minute winner for Conte’s men.
The match at the Velodrome, on the other hand, has left Spurs without forward Son Heung-min. The South Korea international suffered an eye-socked fracture that requires surgery and it remains to be seen if he returns in time to represent his country at the World Cup, but he certainly won’t play before that.
Conte’s attacking ranks are further depleted through the absence of former Everton forward Richarlison. The Brazilian is out with a calf problem which he apparently picked up in the match against his former club. Winger Dejan Kulusevski is a doubt. He’s been suffering from a thigh problem for a few weeks, but his recent Instagram post suggests he might be close to returning to contention.
Conte will likely go with the trio of Eric Dier, Ben Davies and Davinson Sanchez in the back line, with Yves Bissouma anchoring a five-man midfield ahead. The pair of Rodrigo Bentacur and Hojbjerg will probably play closest to Bissouma, with Emerson Royal and Ryan Sessegnon as the two wing-backs. In the absence of Son and potentially Kulusevski, Lucas Moura is the man likeliest to partner Harry Kane upfront.
As was the case with Spurs, there was also talk about Liverpool potentially losing their manager in the near future, but for completely opposite reasons. The Merseysiders are not doing so well – it’s actually been very bad given the standards of expectation they’ve set over the years with Jurgen Klopp in charge of the team. There have been occasional signs of a possible awakening of the team which won both domestic cups in England and finished as runners-up both in the Premier League and the Champions League last season, but those hopes are usually put out rather quickly.
It was said that Klopp might leave the club on his own accord due to the underwhelming results, but the man himself has made it perfectly clear that he isn’t there just for the good times, and his agent recently confirmed that the German tactician had no intention of leaving Anfield any time soon. So that’s that.
Meanwhile, Liverpool are currently in ninth place in the English top flight with just 16 points from 12 matches, 15 points off the top and eight points off top four. They’re obviously not thinking about the title race anymore, but qualifying for next season’s Champions League is certainly imperative.
Speaking of UEFA’s elite club competition, it has been going much better for Liverpool that their Premier League campaign. Having lost the opening round to Napoli, they won the remaining five matches and qualified for the first knockout round as second in Group A, without much difficulty in the end.
Liverpool’s last-six run consists of four wins, some rather big ones in there, and two absolutely shocking defeats. They thrashed Rangers in Glasgow by 1-7, beat Manchester City and West Ham, both by 1-0 at home, then lost 1-0 away to relegation battlers Nottingham Forest, beat Ajax in Amsterdam by 0-3, lost at home to Leeds United by 1-2, and eventually triumphed 2-0 over Napoli, also at home.
The Merseysiders have had plenty of injury issues this term, which are partly to blame for the way the campaign has gone so far. James Milner, Klopp’s arguably favourite go-to man for several positions on the pitch, suffered a head injury in the Napoli clash and is currently out of action through the concussion protocol. However, captain Jordan Henderson, who missed the midweek game as a precaution, is back in contention.
It will be a while yet before the likes of forwards Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota, as well as midfielder Arthur Melo, are back. Centre-back Joel Matip isn’t likely to feature on Sunday either.
With Matip out of contention, Joe Gomez and Ibrahima Konate will each be hoping to start in the heart of defence alongside Virgil van Dijk. Andy Robertson was rested against Napoli but he should return to the left defensive flank in the place of Kostas Tsimikas for the Spurs trip. Trent Alexander-Arnold will be on the right again. In the middle, it will likely be Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara and Harvey Elliott, with Darwin Nunez joining Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah in attack.
With the way these two teams have been playing, it’s really not easy to guess which way their clash will go. Anything is possible, each potential outcome as likely as the other two. But neither would likely be unhappy with a share of the spoils, and that would arguably be the fairest result.
Best odds: 53/20